This article describes how the author, a federal employee, disseminates and explains the poverty guidelines (the administrative version of the federal poverty measure, used in determining eligibility for certain programs) and other povertyrelated information, responding to 1312 public inquiries in 1996. The article reviews federal programs and some non-federal activities using the poverty guidelines; the principal categories of people who make poverty inquiries; and some of the questions most commonly asked.

One common question is "How was the poverty line developed?" The author has prepared a detailed account of the development and history of the poverty thresholds (the original version of the poverty measure), as well as a history of unofficial poverty lines in the U.S. between 1904 and 1965; these papers are disseminated in response to public inquiries on those subjects. The article discusses several findings about the development of poverty lines in the U.S. as a social process.

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