According to the 2016-2020 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, 9.8% of Thurston County’s population (27,628 people) lived below the federal poverty level. The poverty rate over the past five years declined compared to the previous five-year period. In 2021, the Federal poverty threshold was $27,479 for a four-person household with two children.
Federal poverty standards are based on general assumptions about a household’s basic needs and do not account for regional differences in the cost of living. The Self-Sufficiency Standard, published by the University of Washington, is calculated using local data on the cost of specific household needs such as housing, child care, transportation expenses, and taxes. This more comprehensive standard is higher than the federal poverty level. Consequently federal estimates of poverty may underestimate the number of people who are unable to meet their basic needs.
The gap between the income needed for self-sufficiency in Thurston County and the Federal poverty level continues to grow. In 2014, the gap was $5,629 for a one-person household. In 2020, this grew to $12,295.
Federal Poverty Thresholds
The federal poverty thresholds are an estimate of the minimum income needed for a household to meet its basic needs. The threshold varies based on the number and age of people in the household. The threshold does not vary by location — poverty levels in Thurston County are the same as in Seattle.
The original threshold was set at three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963. The poverty level is adjusted for inflation each year.