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Poverty rate hits 18-year high as median income falls

The median income fell last year, and the poverty rate rose to the highest level since 1993. Shaded areas represent recessions.

The number of Americans who have fallen into poverty rose to 15.1 percent in 2010, the highest level in nearly two decades, the  Census Bureau said Tuesday in a report.

The report, which showed the poverty rate rose for a third straight year as the economy struggles with a stumbling recovery and persistent high joblessness, said the number of poor Americans in 2010 was the largest in the 52 years that it has been publishing poverty estimates, according to Reuters.

There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase in the figure.

In a report that covers the first full calendar year after the end of the Great Recession, the bureau also said real median income dropped for the third year in a row.  

Median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median, after adjusting for inflation.

The percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year, the bureau said.

Among some of the other data from the report:

  • Women working full time earned about 77 percent of what men earned, about the same ratio statistically as in 2009. But the number of men working full time dropped by 6.6 million while the number of women employed full time, with earnings, dropped by 2.8 million.
  • The number of families in poverty has risen to 9.2 million in 2010 from 8.8 million in 2009. That boosted the family poverty rate to 11.7 percent from 11.1 percent.  
  • For children under 18, the poverty rate rose to 22.0 percent from 20.7 percent, while for ages 18 to 64 it increased to 13.7 percent from 12.9 percent.

The report comes as President Barack Obama has embarked on a campaign to boost U.S. jobs growth to shake the economy out of an unemployment rate that has stagnated at around 9 percent for months. On Monday he sent a $447 billion jobs creation bill to Congress, asking lawmakers to pass the bill as soon as possible.