By Michael A. Fletcher / Washington Post / September 13, 2011
As the nation continued to struggle to escape the effects of the recession, the poverty rate spiked to 15.1 percent in 2010, the highest level since 1993, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
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.
The total number of people living in poverty — defined in 2010 as at or below an income of $22,314 for a family of four — is now at the highest level in the 52 years the statistic has been collected.
The continued rise in poverty was just the latest manifestation of a troubled economy that has left 14 million Americans out of work and caused unemployment to hover above 9 percent for 25 of the past 27 months.
As poverty has spiked, median household income declined by 2.3 percent to $49,445 between 2009 and 2010. The typical household now earns less than it did in 1997, when inflation is factored in, a troubling sign of economic stagnation.
The declines in income have had the hardest impact on those who earn the least. Overall, median household income has declined by 7.1 percent since peaking in 1999. But the bottom 10 percent of earners have seen their income decline by 12.1 percent, while the top 10 percent has experienced a decline of 1.5 percent in that time period, the Census Bureau reported.
The Census Bureau also reported that 16.3 percent of Americans are without health coverage, a share that officials called statistically unchanged from 2009.