Business, Finance & Economics

US poverty rate hits record high: about 1 in 6 poor

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans were living in poverty last year — 46.2 million, the highest number since poverty levels were first published 52 years ago, the U.S. government reported Tuesday.

That's 15.1 percent of the population living in poverty, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and 11.7 percent at the beginning of the decade in 2001, according to Census Bureau figures cited by the New York Times.

And 2010 was the third consecutive year the poverty rate for all Americans had risen.

The poverty standard for a family of four is an annual income of $22,113.

"That's an all-time high," said Elise Gould, director of health and policy research for the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Washington said Tuesday at a news conference. "I think it's astonishing to have so many Americans below $11,000 a year."

Meanwhile, median incomes in the U.S. fell 2.3 percent between 2009 and 2010, from $50,599 to $49,445, released Tuesday and widely reported.

And 49.9 million went without health insurance in 2010, which the census deemed a statistically insignificant change, the Philly Inquirer reports.

The AP reports that:

Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 22.7 percent ... It was followed by Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Mexico and Arizona. On the other end of the scale, New Hampshire had the lowest share, at 6.6 percent.

The data also reportedly showed that poverty among black Americans (27.4 percent) and Hispanics (26.6 percent) was much higher than for the overall U.S. population last year.

And poverty among women climbed to 14.5 percent from 13.9 percent, the highest rate in 17 years, while men's poverty was lower, increasing from 10.5 percent to 11.2 percent, the Inquirer reports.

Child poverty rose from 20.7 percent to 22 percent, the AP reports.

The prolonged recession has left millions still out of work close to the start of an election year: joblessness in 2010 hovered above 9 percent and the rate is still 9.1 percent.

Obama is hoping to push a $447 billion plan for creating jobs and stimulating the economy through Congress, and may use the census data to argue for increased taxes on wealthy people, the AP reports.