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State of Alaska

Income and Poverty

Poverty is the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support. Poverty status is determined by dividing family income by a poverty threshold. If a family's income is less than 100% of the family's poverty threshold, it is in poverty. Poverty is associated with:
  • Food insecurity
  • Inadequate and unhealthy housing
  • Low level of educational attainment
  • Unemployment
  • Poor access to health care
  • Reduced lifespan
  • Increased mortality

Health conditions and risk factors associated with poverty include:
  • Disability status
  • Poor general health status
  • Poor mental health
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Lung Disease
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Binge drinking
  • Cigarette smoking

Poverty has many dimensions - material deprivation (of food, shelter, sanitation, and safe drinking water), social exclusion, lack of education, unemployment, and low income - that all work together to reduce opportunities, limit choices, undermine hope, and, as a result, threaten health.1

Poverty contributes to poor health, in different ways 2:

  • poor people tend to have jobs or occupations that are physically hazardous
  • they often live in environmentally unsound circumstances
  • they can't afford a healthy diet
  • their lack of education makes it harder to take the right health decisions
  • they may lack adequate health insurance and health screening
  • substandard housing can cause health problems etc.



Living in poverty is associated with lower life expectancy, high infant mortality, poor reproductive health, higher rates of infectious diseases (notably tuberculosis and HIV infection), higher rates of substance use (tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs), higher rates of non-communicable diseases, depression and suicide, and increased exposure to environmental risks. Poor children are more likely to die by the age of five years and to suffer from acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, congenital anomalies and chronic diseases.
Poverty contributes to poor health, in different ways:

  • poor people tend to have jobs or occupations that are physically hazardous
  • they often live in environmentally unsound circumstances
  • they can't afford a healthy diet
  • their lack of education makes it harder to take the right health decisions
  • they may lack adequate health insurance and health screening
  • substandard housing can cause health problems etc.

Actions to reduce health disparities include:

  1. Increase community awareness of disparities as problems with solutions;
  2. Set priorities among disparities to be addressed at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels;
  3. Articulate valid reasons to expend resources to reduce and ultimately eliminate priorities disparities;
  4. Implement the dual strategy of universal and targeted intervention strategies based on lessons learned from successes in reducing certain disparities (e.g., the virtual elimination of disparities in certain vaccination rates among children); and
  5. Aim to achieve a faster rate of improvement among vulnerable groups by allocation resources in proportion to need and a commitment to closing gaps in health, longevity, and quality of life.3



Income and poverty characteristics are tracked in most public health data sets including, but not limited to:


Poverty is measured differently according to its use.4 The Federal Poverty Level is an imprecise term for the statistical measure using the Census Bureau's poverty thresholds for calculating the number of people in poverty. The Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) uses poverty guidelines for determining financial eligibility for certain programs. The two poverty measures differ in their computation.

Poverty thresholds are measured using a detailed (48-cell) matrix of thresholds that varies by family size, number of children, and for 1- and 2-person units, whether or not elderly. Weighted average thresholds vary by family size and for 1- and 2-person units, whether or not elderly. There is no geographic variation; the same figures are used for all 50 states and D.C.

Poverty guidelines vary by family size. In addition, there is one set of figures for the 48 contiguous states and D.C.; one set for Alaska; and one set for Hawaii.

The HHS poverty guidelines, or percentage multiples of them (such as 125 percent, 150 percent, or 185 percent), are used as an eligibility criterion by a number of federal programs, including those listed below.

  • Department of Health and Human Services:
    • Community Services Block Grant
    • Head Start
    • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
    • PARTS of Medicaid (31 percent of eligibles in Fiscal Year 2004)
    • Hill-Burton Uncompensated Services Program
    • AIDS Drug Assistance Program
    • Children's Health Insurance Program
    • Community Health Centers
    • Migrant Health Centers
    • Family Planning Services
    • Health Professions Student Loans - Loans for Disadvantaged Students
    • Health Careers Opportunity Program
    • Scholarships for Health Professions Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds
    • Job Opportunities for Low-Income Individuals
    • Assets for Independence Demonstration Program
  • Department of Agriculture:
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamp Program)
    • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    • National School Lunch Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
    • School Breakfast Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
    • Child and Adult Care Food Program (for free and reduced-price meals only)
    • Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
  • Department of Energy:
    • Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons
  • Department of Labor:
    • Job Corps
    • National Farmworker Jobs Program
    • Senior Community Service Employment Program
    • Workforce Investment Act Youth Activities
  • Department of the Treasury:
    • Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics
  • Corporation for National and Community Service:
    • Foster Grandparent Program
    • Senior Companion Program
  • Legal Services Corporation:
    • Legal Services for the Poor

Most of these programs are non-open-ended programs - that is, programs for which a fixed amount of money is appropriated each year. A few open-ended or "entitlement" programs that use the poverty guidelines for eligibility are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), the National School Lunch Program, certain parts of Medicaid, and the subsidized portion of Medicare - Prescription Drug Coverage.

Some state and local governments have chosen to use the federal poverty guidelines in some of their own programs and activities. Examples include financial guidelines for child support enforcement and determination of legal indigence for court purposes. Some private companies (such as utilities, telephone companies, and pharmaceutical companies) and some charitable agencies also use the guidelines in setting eligibility for their services to low-income persons.

Major means-tested programs that do not use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility include the following:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • State/local-funded General Assistance (in most cases)
  • Some parts of Medicaid
  • Section 8 low-income housing assistance
  • Low-rent public housing


4. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/faq.cfm, downloaded 8/18/2014

The information provided above is from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services' Center for Health Data and Statistics, Alaska Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health (Ak-IBIS) web site (http://ibis.dhss.alaska.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 20 November 2017 from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Center for Health Data and Statistics, Alaska Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health web site: http://ibis.dhss.alaska.gov ".

Content updated: Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:05:49 AKST
The information provided above is from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services' Center for Health Data and Statistics AK-IBIS web site (http://ibis.dhss.alaska.gov/). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 20 November 2017 8:26:02 from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Center for Health Data and Statistics, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://ibis.dhss.alaska.gov/ ".

Content updated: Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:05:49 AKST