In 2014, an individual who makes under $11,670 per year before tax is considered low income in the 48 contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. For each additional person in the family, $4,060 is added to that amount.
The guidelines in Alaska and Hawaii differ from the rest of the country. In Alaska, the low-income line is set at $14,580 for 2014, with an additional $5,080 allotted for additional family members. The low-income line is $13,420 in Hawaii, with an extra $4,670 for each member of the family.
This threshold exists to determine what kinds of benefits individuals should receive. For example, the Affordable Care Act provides those who make less than 400 percent of the poverty level receive tax credits that help to pay for their insurance.
Other benefits include food stamps, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program.