That chart, which shows the percentage of Americans of various ages living in poverty, is adapted from a report released recently by the Congressional Research Service.
Note the big drop in poverty rates among the elderly during the late 1960s and early 1970s; this was due in part to more generous Social Security benefits.
The poverty level is defined as an estimate of the amount of money an individual or family would need per year to afford a basket of goods and services — like food and housing — considered “minimally adequate” according to the living standards of the early 1960s.
The report says that in 2008, the average poverty threshold for an individual living alone was $10,991. For a two-person family, it was $14,051, and for a family of four, $22,025.