U.S. Poverty Rate Up, Household Income Down

Census Bureau releases latest data on poverty in America.

Sept. 13, 2011— -- An estimated 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year, or 15.1 percent, the highest rate since 1993, new data from the Census Bureau released today showed.

Median household income declined at the same time and the number of people without health insurance coverage rose, highlighting the consequences of the recent recession.

The nation's 2010 poverty rate increased 0.8 points from 14.3 percent in 2009, while the percentage of children living in poverty last year rose 1.3 points to 22 percent from the previous year, according to the Census Bureau. The poverty rate also rose for people between the ages of 18 and 64 from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent.

Since the recession began in 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points. The average poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,314.

Blacks and Hispanics experienced the greatest poverty levels, with the poverty rates among those groups coming in at double the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

The South saw the greatest increase in its poverty rate, rising at double the rate of the Northeast, Midwest and West.

As the poverty rate increased nationwide, real median income in 2010 declined by 2.3 percent from the previous year to $49,445, according to the Census Bureau.

Black households experienced the greatest decline in median income, while non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and Asians experience relatively little statistical change. Median household incomes were lowest in the South.

While the poverty rate rose and the median household income declined, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose to 49.9 million, up 900,000 since 2009. But at the same time, the number of insured increased to 256.2 million from 255.3 million.

Nearly 10 percent of children younger than 18 did not have health insurance coverage. Asians saw the greatest increase in the number of people without insurance while Hispanics saw the most people obtaining insurance.

As many young people have struggled to find jobs, 5.9 million young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are now living with their parents, compared to 4.7 million before the recession. Young adults living with their parents had an official poverty rate of 8.4 percent. Based on their individual incomes alone, however, 45.3 percent of those living with their parents are living at the poverty rate.

The 2010 estimates come one year after the end of the recession and reflect similar trends from previous recessions. The poverty rate increased in the first calendar year after the end of the past three recessions, but the poverty rates decreased the subsequent year for the recessions that ended in 1961 and 1975.