Number of Americans in poverty hits record high

A homeless man begging for money in Los Angeles on 22 August President Obama last week launched a new jobs plan to try to increase employment opportunities

The number of Americans living in poverty rose to 46.2 million last year, nearly one in six people, according to the US Census Bureau's annual report.

The 2010 data shows the poverty rate at 15.1%, from 14.3% in 2009. The number of Americans without health insurance also rose slightly to 49.9 million.

The poverty rate was the highest since 1983, and tied with the level in 1993.

The number of Americans living below the poverty line has now risen for four years in a row.

The US definition of poverty is an annual income of $22,314 (£14,129), or less for a family of four, and $11,139 for a single person.

More poor children

The Census Bureau data also showed that poverty among black and Hispanic people was much higher than for the overall US population last year - at 27.4% and 26.6% respectively.

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Mr Obama is portraying a series of pretty partisan, controversial proposals as plain common sense that no-one of good will could resist”

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Outside of the poverty line, the average annual US household income fell 2.3% in 2010 to $49,445 (£31,228).

Even younger Americans were also strongly affected. Twenty-two percent of those under 18 were living under the poverty line - up from from 20.7% in 2009.

Reacting to the data, the Children's Leadership Council, an advocacy group, said: "The rising numbers of children living in poverty is a direct result of the choices made by political leaders who put billionaires before kids. America's children should be our top priority."

Among regions, the South had the highest poverty rate at 16.9% and the highest percentage without health insurance, 19.1%.

'Nobody hiring'

Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 22.7%, followed by Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Mexico and Arizona.

Author and columnist Tom Friedman says the US faces either a bad decade or a bad century

At the other end of the scale, New Hampshire had the lowest share, at 6.6%.

The slight rise in the number of people without health insurance - up by nearly one million - was mostly caused by losses of employer-provided medical cover in the weakened economy.

Congress passed a health overhaul last year to deal with rising numbers of the uninsured, but the main provisions do not take effect until 2014.

The figures compound a stagnant US jobs report in August, when the unemployment rate was at 9.1% for the second straight month.

In Fort Washington, Maryland, mother-of-five Nekisha Brooks told of her struggle to find work since being laid off from her job at telecommunications firm AT&T several months ago.

Ms Brooks told the Associated Press news agency: "I've been putting in job applications every day and calling around, from housekeeping to customer service to admin or waitresses, but nobody seems to be hiring right now."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Oh my, $11,139 for a single person? Then 80% of Nigerians live far below the poverty line. The minimum wage Nigerians are asking for is not even up to half that amount. Nigerians will gladly step into Americans' shoes. It would be an improvement. That's our sorry situation in Africa. Anyway, I hope your congressmen look at the issues holistically and beyond party lines too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The poor obviously don't choose to be poor, however many may have taken decisions which didn't benefit their prospects. All Americans are given the opportunity of around 12 years of education but many just don't see the importance. I'm guessing most don't have degrees and many will lack the skills for a higher paying job . Education is the way out of poverty in africa and it is in America too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The lack of investment in infrastructure and the huge increases in personal wealth have brought America to this stage. Rick Perry recently described social security as a Ponzi scheme. American culture believes that if you are poor its your fault. we may care about such numbers - question is do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Most people in the U.S. earning under the "official" poverty rate of $11,139 (for a single person) simply cannot maintain any sort of regular life. These people are $2 away from living under a bridge if they aren't already. Living in poverty is only slightly better than being homeless. A more accurate description of poverty must have the rate hiked up to about $20,000 (for a single person)!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    For those who think "personal responsibility is dead"... there are so many of us like myself who have been unemployed so long that I've run out of unemployment, which is not welfare by the way), I'm applying to 2-3 unique jobs a day, for MONTHS w/o being hired. I have post graduate degrees (more than one) and I'm competing to be hired even for minimum wage jobs. This is not the fault of the poor!


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