In 2018, the official poverty rate for the United States was 11.8%. That means 38.1 million people lived in poverty.

66,000 of those in poverty lived in Vermont.

Poverty rates vary considerably across states and counties, as shown in the map below. The numbers used to measure poverty vary as well. The amount of income to be considered above or below poverty depends on how many people live in a family and their ages. When the data in the map below was collected, a family with two adults and two children under the age of 18 needed an income of at least $25,465 to be above the poverty threshold. (Click here to see how the updated thresholds differ by family size.)

A family with income less than the poverty cutoff would be counted as living in poverty, and a family with income less than half that amount would be counted as living in deep poverty. Approximately 6% of the U.S. population, 4.7% of the population in Vermont, and 3.8% of the population in Addison County lived in deep poverty in 2018.

Use a full screen for the best viewing experience. Hover over maps and figures to easily compare across geographies and click on column headings to sort tables.

Given the importance of the poverty rate for determining eligibility for many government benefits, it should be measured accurately. But the official measure has been criticized and alternative calculations, such as the Supplementary Poverty Measure, are also used. Watch this video to learn about the different ways to count who lives in poverty.

Poverty in Vermont

One criticism of the poverty measure is that it describes rates rather than counts. As a result, poverty measures in areas with small populations can be difficult to grasp since changes in income for a few households could produce big differences in the poverty rate. This challenge is important to remember when considering the estimated poverty rates in small areas, such as Vermont’s counties and towns. 

The table below shows how different interpretations of poverty across counties may emerge when analyzing population counts versus rates. For example, Chittenden County is home to roughly one-fourth of Vermonters living in poverty and more than two-fifths of the state’s population in deep poverty. The highest poverty rate is in Essex County, though that is also the place with the smallest number of individuals in poverty. Comparing levels of poverty across counties can also reveal important insights, including the fact that Addison County has one of the lowest poverty rates in Vermont but one of the highest rates of deep poverty among those living below the poverty threshold.

Comparing these county measures to the national distribution is helpful. The Vermont county with the highest poverty rate – Essex County (14.6%) – falls right at the median for all counties in the country. That means 50% of counties in the U.S. have poverty rates that exceed the highest county poverty rate in Vermont. Only 7% of counties in the U.S. have poverty rates below the lowest county poverty rate in Vermont.

Vermont’s counties are closer to the top of the national distribution for deep poverty. One-third of counties in the U.S. have deep poverty rates above the deep poverty rate in Lamoille County (7.3%). Nine percent of counties in the country have deep poverty rates below the deep poverty rate in Franklin County, which has Vermont’s lowest rate.

Across the twenty-three towns of Addison County, there is also considerable variation in poverty.

For details about these towns and the community partners addressing the local consequences of poverty, visit the Profiles page.

Small population counts are not the only reason why there is a lot of uncertainty in the estimates of poverty in Vermont’s counties and towns. A report on poverty in Vermont by researchers from Dartmouth College’s Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and Social Science at Dartmouth College describes the following challenges:

  • Individuals who do not receive state or federal assistance and poverty relief are considered a “hidden population” in Vermont.
  • Individuals who do not receive state or federal assistance are nearly impossible to capture in Census data.
  • It is difficult to assist these hidden groups given their invisibility from town, state, and federal officials.
  • In other words, there are “invisible” persons living in deep poverty throughout Vermont who are not counted in the census, who do not receive aid, and who are unable to better their circumstances because of structural barriers and the disconnections of rural geographies. 
  • Additionally, the report noted how different health and safety issues may be negatively affecting Vermonters in deep poverty. In particular, the study highlighted how Vermonters in deep poverty are exposed to sexual assault and child abuse at higher rates than the population at large. Further, mental illnesses and substance abuse are linked with deep poverty.

The researchers recommend that Vermont “redevelop benefit programs and target money toward those residents most in need of assistance” and “invest in improving data-gathering techniques to find Vermonters who are living in deep poverty but not receiving benefits and the most effective way to reach them.”

The official poverty measure for the United States represents a national average. But variations in poverty across the country are important for understanding poverty’s causes and consequences. Poverty varies across places as well as across populations. Differences in poverty rates among and within racial and ethnic groups and among age groups are notable across the country and throughout Vermont. 

Poverty, Race, and Ethnicity

This map shades each state by its total poverty rate. Hover over a state to reveal its deep poverty rate and total poverty rate by the racial and ethnic groups identified in census data.

Nationally, the poverty rate is highest for American Indians (23.6%) and Black persons (22.5%), followed by Hispanic/Latinx persons (18.8%) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (16.7%).

The overall poverty rate for Asians (10.8%) is lower than the national average, though there is considerable variation in Asian poverty rates by ethnic origin. Disaggregating poverty rates within these broad racial groups is important for understanding the causes and consequences of inequality. Click here for more details about variations in economic and social indicators across Asian origin groups.

The poverty rate for white non-Hispanics (9.5%) is lower than the national average. In fact, the poverty rate for white non-Hispanics is lower than the average poverty rate for non-whites in every state and in 90% of U.S. counties.

Racial and ethnic differences in poverty rates have narrowed over time but have not disappeared in the United States. This figure is from a recent article by John Iceland that attempts to explain these persistent gaps. Iceland's analyses show that factors such as education, age, and family structure explain more of the racial inequalities in poverty rates in 2015 than they did in 1959.

Distinctive migration patterns also explain some of these differences. For example, Iceland suggests that immigrant selectivity shapes the disparities between Asian and Hispanic/Latinx persons. Immigrants from some Asian countries are more likely to enter the U.S. with higher education and skills that are favored in the immigration process, easing their entry into to a job market that provides fairer wages and opportunities for economic advancement. In contrast, Hispanic/Latinx individuals are less favored by the immigration system and often lack access to occupations that provide fair wages and opportunities for professional growth.

Iceland's research has received some criticism from scholars who argue he does not pay enough attention to historical legacies of racism and racial oppression. For example, click here for a critique from Deadric Williams. Iceland's response to Williams is available here.

Other researchers have also studied the effects of immigrant selectivity on inequality. Two recommended resources are Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou's book The Asian American Achievement Paradox and this article by Brian Duncan and Stephen Trejo.

Due to the small population sizes, we do not describe county poverty rates for all racial and ethnic groups. To provide some insight into the differences that do exist, this section compares poverty rates between whites and persons of all other racial or ethnic backgrounds at the county level. Estimates of the number of people in poverty in each of the state's counties by race and the margins of error for those estimates can be accessed in this table from the American Community Survey.

In most counties, the poverty rates for whites are lower. The counties with poverty rates for other racial and ethnic groups that are higher than the national rate for those combined groups also tend to have poverty rates for whites that are higher than the national rate for whites. In Vermont, however, there is some evidence that the gaps between these two poverty rates tend to be wider in the counties with higher poverty rates for both groups summarized here.

We can use additional data to examine economic outcomes by race. The data from one project is publicly available through The Opportunity Atlas.

The researchers compared the incomes of individuals when they were young adults in the early 2010s to their family incomes when they were teenagers. They found that the counties in which individuals grew up strongly predicted how similar their incomes were to their parents' incomes. Even within counties, patterns of social and economic mobility varied across neighborhoods and among individuals with different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The Opportunity Atlas

In Vermont, the Opportunity Atlas' mobility measures are only available by race for Chittenden County. Among those who grew up in that county, racial differences in children's income persist into early adulthood whether parents were low income, middle income, or high income.

In every category of parents' income, average incomes for Black persons who grew up in Chittenden County are lower than the average incomes for persons in this study from all other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Average incomes for Asian persons are higher in each category of parents' income.

The average incomes of white young adults move closer to the top of the income distribution in each subsequent row of this figure. The differences in average income between whites and Asians are narrower for the children of high income parents than they are for the children of low income parents. At the same time, the differences in average income between whites and individuals from all other groups are wider for the children of high income parents than they are for the children of low income parents.

The Opportunity Atlas also shows that the average adult incomes for white children who grew up in low income households are higher than the average adult incomes for Black children who grew up in middle income households. It is important to note, though, that incomes for both of these groups remain low.

The Opportunity Atlas measures additional outcomes for young adults based on their childhood neighborhoods and counties. Click here to explore the findings for those who grew up in Vermont.

Racial and ethnic inequalities in economic outcomes in Vermont are profound and deserve further analysis. For an overview of how researchers have studied these issues in other communities across the country, watch this video.



While numbers can be helpful to capture broad patterns, narratives often tell more compelling stories. This non-fiction comic introduces readers to how gender roles and race play significant roles in an individuals ability to overcome poverty. Click the button below to learn about Guadalupe and her experiences as a Mexican immigrant in Addison County.

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Child Poverty

Poverty rates vary substantially by age as well as by race and ethnicity. Children remain the poorest age group in the United States. The map below compares state poverty rates for children under the age of 18.

The national average for child poverty in 2018 was 18%.

Two out of every 5 children in poverty live in deep poverty.

Vermont’s child poverty rate of 14.1% is below the national average, though there are considerable differences across counties. 

How do young Vermonters experience poverty?

Click below to hear stories collected by the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth.

The Highlow Project

Nationally and locally, there are wide disparities in child poverty rates depending on the structure of the family in which children live. All but one of Vermont's counties shows the same pattern: poverty rates are lowest for children living in families with married couples present and highest for children living in families headed by unmarried females.

This finding should be interpreted with caution, however. Some commentators might assume these differences are explained by cultural differences between family types or the stability of a two-parent household. Yet the more accurate explanation is also the most simple one: families with single parents tend to have only one income.

Just Above The Line: Living Near Poverty

The challenges of economic insecurity and hardship do not disappear once families have incomes above the poverty threshold. Indeed, one of the criticisms of poverty measures is that the stark division they create between incomes above and below poverty thresholds ignores the challenges facing those with incomes near poverty. In many places, there are wide gaps between the amount of income required to be above poverty and the amount of income required to meet a family’s basic needs for food, transportation, housing, childcare, healthcare, clothing, and personal expenses.

MIT’s Living Wage Calculator estimated that meeting those basic needs in Vermont required an average livable wage of $13.34 per hour in 2018. That’s higher than the state’s minimum wage of $10.78 per hour. And it’s more than double the wages earned by a single adult with no children living in poverty. The discrepancies leave many Vermonters earning less than what is needed to cover their basic needs.

To learn more about how Vermonters struggle with economic insecurity, read or listen to the stories Vermont Public Radio collected below.

The Vermont Hustle

Like the poverty threshold, the livable wage varies depending on family size. Below, see how the gap between Vermont’s livable wage and a wage that leaves a family below the poverty threshold differs based on how many earners and children there are in a family. Remember that any wage between the poverty wage and the livable wage represents an amount that is higher than the poverty threshold but lower than what is required to meet basic needs.

Addison County’s average livable wage of $12.01 is slightly lower than the state’s average (which adjusts for the higher costs in the urbanized areas of Chittenden County). Explore how estimated expenses in Addison County vary across household types and sizes. How do your typical expenses compare to the amount estimated to meet basic needs?

Hover over the bars to focus on that category. Scroll down to compare these expenses for families with two adults.

These estimates assume that the adult without wages from full-time work is available to provide child care for the family. For more details on the high costs of child care in Vermont, visit Let's Grow Kids.

A household with two adults working full time at minimum wage could meet their basic needs, but only if they did not have any children.

Homelessness in Vermont

Housing costs are the biggest expenses in each of the living wage estimates described above, and housing instability remains a challenge for individuals and families throughout Vermont.

The Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance conduct an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of homeless persons in Vermont. The count takes place overnight and includes individuals who are living in shelters, in publicly funded hotels, in transitional housing, or on the streets.

The 2020 Point-in-Time count identified 1,110 homeless persons in Vermont. For each person without shelter, there were eight with temporary housing in the state.

Chittenden County had the highest number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons. Essex and Grand Isle Counties did not record any homeless persons during the PIT. Addison County recorded 73 homeless individuals, placing it 7th among all counties.

Despite the broad reach of the PIT count, these numbers undercount the homeless population in Vermont. The total number of homeless people who receive assistance is roughly three times the total number counted.

Visit our companion site for more information about housing, poverty, education, food, and health in the 23 towns that make up Addison County. That site also includes profiles of local community partners working to reduce the effects of social and economic inequality.

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