U.S. poverty rate hits 15.1%

Income fell for the third straight year in 2010 in the typical American household.  The poverty level rose up to its highest leve since 1993 as the aftermath of the latest recession continued to take a toll.


The median household income—what the statistical middle earns in a year—fell 2.3% to $49,445 in 2010, adjusted for inflation, according to the Census Bureau’s annual snapshot on living standards released Tuesday. This comes on the heels of a so-called lost decade for earnings: Inflation-adjusted household income is down 7.1% from its 1999 peak, and 2010 was the first time since 1997 that American households made less than a median of $50,000.

The official poverty rate—defined as a family of four earning less than $22,314—was at 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% last year and up from 12.5% in 2007, before the recession was in full force. The official poverty rate has been criticized by economists and researchers because it doesn’t take into account many of the programs the government uses to aid the poor, such as subsidized housing and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Reflecting the lingering impact of the recession, the U.S. poverty rate from 2007-2010 has now risen faster than during any three-year period since the early 1980s, when a crippling energy crisis amid government cutbacks contributed to inflation, spiraling interest rates and unemployment.

Measured by total numbers, the 46 million now living in poverty is the largest on record dating back to when the census began tracking poverty in 1959. Based on percentages, it tied the poverty level in 1993 and was the highest since 1983.

Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 22.7%, according to rough calculations by the Census Bureau. 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%.

The report also showed that the number of people with health insurance increased slightly, to 256.2 million in 2010 from 255.3 million a year earlier. Echoing a longer-term trend, the share of people covered by private insurance fell while the share of people on government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid increased.

Photo credit:  Business Recorder

Via Wall Street Journal