Poverty Rate Soars to 20-Year High 15.1%: Census Data

  on September 13 2011 10:41 AM

More Americans dropped below the poverty line last year while median household income declined, according to U.S. Census data released on Tuesday.

Taken together, the data offers the latest reminder that Americans are still struggling with an intractable recession and an unemployment rate that is hovering near nine percent.

The figures we are releasing today are important, Robert Groves, the director of the Census Bureau, told The New York Times. They tell us how changing economic conditions have impacted Americans and their families.

The newest additions to the ranks of the poor pushed America's poverty rate to 15.1% in 2010, the highest percentage since 1993. Last year was the fourth consecutive year that the number of impoverished Americans increased. About 46.2 million met the government definition of poverty, which is an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual.

A steady increase in consumer prices has outpaced income, which has shown scant growth over the past few years. A middle income family earns only 11 percent more then they did in 1980, while consumer prices have grown by about 155 percent.

Wages for middle-class families were stagnant in 2010, with median household income dropping slightly from $49,777 to  $49,445. Declining income has hit the poorest Americans hardest: the top 10 percent of earners have seen their income decline by a cumulative 1.5 percent since 1999, compared to a drop of 12.1 percent for the bottom 10 percent of earners.

The Census Bureau also reported that the number of Americans without health insurance remained virtually the same since 2009, around 16.3 percent.

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