Poverty line

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The poverty line describes an income below which the acquisition of all vital resources is no longer possible, i.e. poverty exists.


The numerical value for the poverty line varies from place to place due to the different cost of living. It is usually close to a fixed value within a country, but can also vary within a country in different regions, for example between urban and rural areas or areas with warm and cold climates.


Since poverty occurs in almost all societies, the poverty line in economics is a yardstick for expressing poverty in numbers. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is known as the poverty rate .


The poverty line is determined by taking into account the essential resources that an average adult consumes in a year and adding up their costs. The biggest cost factor is usually rent or property prices. For this reason, economists pay particular attention to the real estate market as an important factor influencing the height of the poverty line.

Relative poverty lines

European Union

EU statisticians define those from the median of the net - equivalent income less than

  • 70 percent are at risk of poverty in social risk situations with restrictions in central areas of life ,
  • 60 percent have available as at risk of poverty ,
  • Have 50 percent available, as relatively poor ,
  • 40 percent are available as poor .


The WHO and the OECD define those from the median of the net - equivalent income less than

  • 50 percent available as poor .

Individual states


In Germany , the annual net equivalent income was € 21,920 in 2017, i.e. around € 1,827 a month. Accordingly, when the above percentages of the EU definition were applied in Germany in 2017, the limits per month were less than

  • € 1,279 for at risk of poverty in social risk situations,
  • € 1,096 for at risk of poverty
  • 913 € for relatively low income,
  • 731 € for poor.

According to the Hans Böckler Foundation , which sets the poverty line at 60% of median income, the proportion of people below the poverty line has risen steadily. According to this, the poverty rate was 10.6% of the population in 1998, 14.2% in 2010 and 16.7% in 2016.


In Switzerland , individuals who can spend less than around CHF 1,000 per month after paying the rental costs for a functional apartment and the health insurance premium are considered poor.

United States

In the USA , the poverty line for single people is currently at an annual income of 11,490 USD, for a family of four it is 23,550 USD (as of 2013) .


According to the poverty report 2012 to 2017 of the Namibian Statistics Agency, there are three poverty lines in Namibia :

  • “Poor”: available money of 520.80 Namibia dollars (about 35 euros ) per month; 18 percent of the population (2015/16) compared to 28.7 percent (2009/10)
  • “Very poor”: available money of 389.30 Namibia dollars (about 25 euros) per month; 11 percent of the population (2015/16) compared to 15.3 percent (2009/10)
  • “Extremely poor”: available money of 293.10 Namibia dollars (around 20 euros) per month; 5.8 percent of the population (2015/16) compared to 7.3 percent (2009/10)

South Africa

In South Africa , more people were poor in 2015 than in 2011. A total of 30.4 million people or 55.5 percent of the population are considered poor. The increase was particularly strong among the “very poor”. In 2011 it was 11 million, in 2015 it was 13.8 million. The national poverty line is 441 rand per month.

Absolute poverty line

The absolute poverty line is determined as the level of income or expenditure below which people can no longer afford the necessary nutrition and essential items of daily life. The World Bank sees people in October 2015, less than 1.90 PPP dollars or International dollars have (in purchasing power from 2012) per day, as "poor" on. From 2008 to 2015 it was worth 1.25 Geary Khamis dollars (2005 purchasing power). The increase in the values ​​is always only an adjustment for inflation, the absolute purchasing power of the amount remains the same over the years.

Critics note that the different living conditions in a society are not taken into account and, in particular according to the World Bank indicator , purchasing power parities, that according to its average basket of goods the relatively cheap services are taken into account, which, however, cannot be used by the poorer of a society. As a result, fewer affected people are considered poor.

Around 10% of the world population then lives in poverty.

An indicator of absolute poverty according to the International Development Association (IDA) is a per capita income (PKE) below US $ 150 / year.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: poverty line  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


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  2. destatis .de: EU-wide comparable data on poverty for the first time ( Memento of January 14, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), press release no.505 of December 5, 2006.
  3. destatis.de: Leben in Europa 2006 ( Memento of December 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), Press Release No. 028 of January 21, 2008.
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  6. Marcus Klöckner: Income inequality is "far higher" in Germany today than it was 20 years ago. Article about the results of the 2016 study by the Hans Böckler Foundation on the unequal distribution of income and wealth in Germany. In: Telepolis, August 8, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  7. Unequal wage development in Germany - "The bottom 40 percent are excluded". In: Deutschlandfunk. Deutschlandradio, accessed on October 21, 2019 (German).
  8. SKOS guidelines
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  10. ^ Namibia Inter-Censal Demographic and Labor Force Survey. Namibia Statistics Agency, November 24, 2016.
  11. More than 50% of SA's population is living in poverty. Fin24, August 22, 2017.
  12. ^ Quick Reference Tables , The World Bank Group
  13. a b World Bank Forecasts Global Poverty to Fall Below 10% for First Time; Major Hurdles Remain in Goal to End Poverty by 2030. Retrieved January 18, 2019 .
  14. FAQs: Global Poverty Line Update. Retrieved January 18, 2019 .