US poverty rate stays at 15 percent


People receive food at a distribution point. The US Census Bureau released data on September 12, 2012, that showed the poverty rate held steady at 15 percent in 2011.


Spencer Platt

After three years of increases, the US poverty rate held steady in 2011, hovering at a high 15 percent, according to census data released on Wednesday, said The Washington Post.

Nearly 46.2 million people remained below the poverty line in 2011, according to the Associated Press, the same number as in 2010. The number is the highest in more than half a century. The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,021 for a family of four.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the poverty rate was been climbing steadily since 2007, but more people went from part-time jobs to full-time jobs last year. David Johnson, a Census Bureau division chief, said the job gains helped many workers in lower-income households.

Rebecca Blank, the US Secretary of Commerce, said in a statement, "It is clear that had President Obama not taken swift and aggressive action to grow our economy and create jobs, today's report would have shown much higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and a greater share of the population without health insurance," according to The LA Times.

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Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan economist who tracks poverty, said the poverty rate holding steady was good news. He said, "It would indicate the stimulus was even more effective than believed," according to the AP.

However, economists said the situation has worsened as stimulus spending has run its course. Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute, said, "We have a situation where the poor are getting poorer every year," according to The Post. "And the safety net is getting weaker simultaneously."

The US Census Bureau's data also showed that median household income went down by 1.5 percent, to $50,054, according to the AP. The gap between the rich and poor also increased, with the top 1 percent seeing a 6 percent increase in their income while the bottom 40 percent of income earners saw no change.

The Post said the number of people without health insurance declined from 50.0 million in 2010 to 48.6 million in 2011. The percentage without coverage declined from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent from 2010 to 2011.

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