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How Many Americans Live in Poverty, and What Does That Actually Mean? (with Lesson Plan)

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A street in Camden, NJ, one of the poorest cities in the United States. (Wikimedia Commons)

More than 43 million Americans -- roughly 13.5 percent of the entire population -- were  living in poverty in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's actually a noticeable decline from recent years, when the rate hovered at around 15 percent, but it still amounts to a shockingly large number of people in the richest nation on earth who live in dire circumstances.

Comic journalist Andy Warner explains how "poverty" is officially defined and what factors have caused those rates to change so widely over time.

And to learn more about how the federal government determines poverty rates, see part two.


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