Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Poverty and Inequality: Home

Finding information to understand and address poverty and inequality in the U.S. and around the world


U.S.Government definition - A family is counted as poor if its pretax money income is below its poverty threshold. Money income does not include noncash benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, employer-provided health insurance and food stamps. The 2012 HHS poverty guideline is $11,170 for an individual or $23,050 for a family of four.

United Nations definition - Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

Extreme Poverty - World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.25(US) per day.

Other Online Research Guides

Poverty Law Research Guide - from Georgetown University Law Library

Poverty Reduction Research Guide - from the World Bank

U.S. Poverty Research Guide - from University of Virginia Library

Background Sources

Encyclopedia of World Poverty - 2006

Millenium Development Goals Report 2012 - annual report from the UN on the progress for the 2015 goals that include the goal to cut poverty in half.

Poverty in the U.S. - 2010 Congressional Research Service Report

Recent Books

Eradicating Extreme Poverty: Democracy, Globalization and Human Rights edited by Xavier Godinot  MAIN Library HC 59.72 .P6 E7313 2012

So Rich So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America Peter Edelman MAIN Library HC 110 .P6 E34 2012

World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reform 2nd ed. Thomas Pogge MAIN Library JC 571 .P577 2008

See also the suggested annotated references on Poverty from Oxford Bibliographies Online. Search using keywords like "poverty".

Searching for Articles


Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO). Indexes and selectively publishes post-1990 scholarship and reports on international affairs. Provides full-text access to relevant Columbia University Press titles and many recent journals, papers from university research institutes and non-governmental organizations, foundation-funded research projects, and conference proceedings. CIAO also has links to international affairs centers, institutes, and other resources; U.S., international, and foreign government sites; environmental studies web pages; and news media services.

EconLit - covers more than 400 economics journals plus dissertations in the field.

Political Science Complete. Provides full text for over 500 publications, and cover-to-cover indexing and abstracts for more than 1995 journals. The database also features more than 189 full-text reference books and monographs, and over 27,000 full text conference papers, including those of the International Political Science Association.

Other Useful Websites

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - focuses research and policy on low and moderate income

Economic Research Center, United States Department of Agriculture (ERC) - covers rural poverty in the U.S.

Eldis Poverty Research - from the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex a knowledge service with more than 26,000 full-text documents

Institute for Research on Poverty - covers U.S. poverty with emphasis on the Midwest

Joint Center for Poverty Research (JCPR) - Housed at Northwestern and University of Chicago focuses on US

National Poverty Center (NPC) Housed at University of Michigan focuses on policy responses

PolicyFile - database of research and policy briefs from hundreds of think tanks (mostly U.S. based)

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Julia Ezzo

Film and video

The End of Poverty? Think Again (2010) DVD (Digital Media Center) - 104 minute documentary film from Robert Schalkenbach Foundation