Calculate your entire household's pre-tax earnings and write this figure down. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that "the official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or non-cash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps)."
Log onto the U.S. Census Bureau's website at Census.gov then navigate to the "Poverty Thresholds" page. Select the relevant year's listings. Data is available for the previous year and as far back as 1980.
Find the size of your family unit using the matrix. If you have children under 18 in the home, you must use the right side of the matrix to determine your poverty threshold index.
Compare the income listed on the matrix for your family with your actual pre-tax earnings as a household for the year. If your earnings were higher, even by $1, your household income would not be considered under the poverty level. If your household earnings fall below the listed threshold, your household income would be considered below the poverty level.