There has been much debate about how to define poverty. In terms of economics, a person or family whose income falls below the poverty line is considered poor. The U.S. Census Bureau defines poverty by using a set of money/income guidelines that vary by family size and composition. If the family’s total income is less than that family’s threshold, all members of the family are considered poor. Others have stated that poverty is a relative term that reflects a judgment on the basis of community standards. Such standards vary at different times and in different places; what is judged poverty in one community might be regarded as wealth in another. No matter how poverty is defined, it is an increasingly devastating epidemic, fueled by real estate foreclosures and credit debt that has evolved into a culture of its own. At highest risk are children, older people, families headed by single mothers, and future generations of those now living in poverty. The amount of money a person or family has affects how they meet their basic needs and maintain their health. Poverty leads to other problems such as lack of health insurance, care of infants and children, and homelessness. All these areas are of concern to nursing. The feminization of poverty threatens to increase the number of people who are living at poverty level. The number of female-headed households is increasing as a result of divorce, abandonment, unmarried motherhood, and changes in abortion laws. Because it is now common in many households that two incomes are required for economic survival, a single woman supporting a household is at a financial disadvantage. The number of single-parent families headed by women is associated closely with the increasing number of children living in poverty and the number of homeless families with children. The increasing population of older people has also raised problems associated with poverty. Many older people live on fixed incomes that often do not keep up with inflation, and many (particularly widows) are on the borderline of poverty or have already slipped below the poverty level. Socioeconomic status often differs by the cultural group of the older adult. For example, Pacific/Asian, African American, Native American, and Hispanic elders generally have lower incomes than do elders in the Anglo-American majority population. The work history of the cultural group, especially those who have worked all their lives as agricultural workers, often means an individual has no Social Security or Medicare benefits. In some cases, the culture of poverty is passed from generation to generation. This appears to be especially true in such groups as migrant farm workers, families living on welfare, and people who live in isolated areas of Appalachia. Poverty has long been a barrier to adequate healthcare. It prevents many people from consistently meeting their basic human needs. The lack of affordable or adequate housing is a problem experienced frequently by poor people. When low-income housing is available, it sometimes lacks such necessities as running water, heat, and electricity. To stretch their available money and to pool resources, many poor people live in crowded conditions, with several families living together in one household. Research has demonstrated that crowded living conditions foster depersonalization, correlate with higher crime rates, and lead to psychological problems such as schizophrenia, alienation, and feelings of worthlessness. Such conditions also contribute to an increased incidence of disease and illness because of the proximity of people, the sharing of utensils and belongings, poor sanitation, and poor health habits. The health effects of such conditions include a higher incidence and severity of illness in poor people than in people of higher income groups. Accessing healthcare facilities frequently requires transportation, which many times is neither affordable nor available to poor people. Their access to health insurance also is frequently limited, and they often must choose between purchasing food and purchasing healthcare. Those in upper income groups tend to live longer and to experience less disability than those in lower-income groups. Other barriers to healthcare include isolation, language or communication difficulties, seasonal occupations, migration patterns, depersonalization, and institutional prejudice.