About 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year, marking an increase of 2.6 million over 2009 and the fourth consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Inflation-adjusted median household income in the U.S. fell 2.3% in 2010 from a year ago, to $49,445.
The poverty rate for children younger than 18 rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010.
Poverty among black and Hispanic people was much higher than for the overall US population last year, the figures also showed. The Census Bureau data said 25.8% of black people were living in poverty and 25.3% of Hispanic people.
The Census Bureau’s report points to the severe and widespread financial strains of a nation in the throes of an economic crisis. And the report, coming shortly after President Obama’s proposed package of $447 billion in tax cuts and spending to revive job growth and the recovery, is almost certain to intensify the debate over the government’s role in helping the poor and unemployed at a time of budget deficits and painful cutbacks in public services.
Extended federal unemployment benefits, for example, helped some people rise above the poverty line. The report also showed the number of people without health insurance rose 900,000 in 2010 to 49.9 million, a 16.3 percent rate.
Trudi Renwick, chief of the Census bureau’s poverty statistics branch, said the “single most important factor” in the poverty increase could be the rising number of people who found no employment last year. The number of people over 16 who didn’t work at least one week climbed from 83.3 million in 2009 to 86.7 million last year. In 2010, the jobless rate stayed above 9%. This year it dipped to 8.9% in February and 8.8% in March, but in August it was back at 9.1%. The rate of unemployed Americans is 16% if you count the people who have given up looking for work and those who can only find part-time jobs.