Adult Education


Work and Economic Security


To understand, in financial terms, what is meant by “the poverty line” — and to develop an awareness of what constitutes a “living wage” in the United States.

Education Center Adult Education


No one can predict the future. And yet, while most of us have some idea of what the next day may bring, for people living in poverty, tomorrow is a place of frightening uncertainty. For many poor around this nation, even the smallest of economic changes today can easily send them plummeting further into hunger and misery. Even for the working poor, financial security — having the means to achieve a stable, fulfilling life for themselves and their families — is a tenuous proposition.

Food, shelter, clothing, health care, transportation— these are only the beginnings of the basic necessities of modern American living. Each year, the federal government calculates the minimum amount of money required by families to meet these and other basic needs. The resulting calculation is what is commonly referred to as the “poverty line.” For 2019, the government has set the poverty guidelines at:

Persons In Family
48 Contiguous States & DC







$ 21,130

$ 19,460


$ 21,330

$ 26,660

$ 24,540


$ 25,750

$ 32,190

$ 29,620




$ 34,700













person, add:

Source: Federal Register, 84 FR 1167, February 1, 2019, pp. 1167-1168

The above figures are based on the government’s calculations as to the amount of money families need to feed themselves and purchase such basic goods and services as health care and housing. And yet, many in America believe that while such calculations are helpful for setting requirements for governmental assistance programs, the incomes set at the “poverty line” are not enough for families to survive.

  1. “Hard Living on the Poverty Line”
  2. “Myths, Facts and Action Against Poverty”
  3. Stack of the Deck Game
  4. Take a Step Activity

Get Involved

Each of us has the power to help people find a way out of poverty. Here are some ways you can direct your group members to get involved in the community:

Donate time, talents, money or other resources to an organization that helps poor people to become independent, successful members of society and that address the underlying causes which keep people in the cycle of poverty, such as racism, lack of access to quality education, health care, childcare, etc.

Use the information gathered from the group activities to write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about the forgotten state of poverty in America, or ask a local reporter to cover the state of poverty in your community and what’s being done to help.

Get involved with a CCHD-funded organization near you.

Offer to mentor someone who is struggling to pull themselves out of poverty.

Invite your parish or school to participate in this year’s Creating on the Margins Contest for youth in grades 7-12.

Become a member of a community-based, self-help project and work together with low-income people to break the cycle of poverty.

Learn More

Also see Grades 6-12 resources.

Stories of Hope: Read online about projects funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development that are helping communities to break free of the cycle of poverty, not just for a day, but a lifetime.

Poverty Facts: A collection of facts about the state of poverty in America that illuminates understanding, including the Top Ten Poverty Rates of U.S. cities, counties and states.

Additional Resources

Explore Catholic teaching about the call to fight poverty and promote the life and dignity of the human person.

Watch and share these videos about how communities are confronting poverty across the country.

To learn more about fight against global poverty, visit Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services.