US Poverty Rate, One in Six at Highest Level in Years

Washington — The portion of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest level since 1993, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, fresh evidence that the sluggish economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens.

And in new evidence of economic distress among the middle class, real median household incomes declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, to $49,400.

An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch at the Census Bureau. That represented 15.1 percent of the country.

The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for a family of four.

“The figures we are releasing today are important,” said Robert Groves, the director of the Census Bureau. “They tell us how changing economic conditions have impacted Americans and their families.”

According to the Census figures, the median annual income for a male full-time, year-round worker in 2010 — $47,715 — was virtually unchanged from its level in 1973, when the level was $49,065, in 2010 dollars.

“That’s not about the poor and unemployed, that’s full time, year round,” said Sheldon Danziger, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. Particularly hard hit, Professor Danziger said, have been those who do not have college degrees. “The median, full-time male worker has made no progress on average.”

The youngest members of households — those ages 15 to 24 — lost out the most, with their median income dropping by 9 percent. The recession continued to push Americans to double up in households with friends and relatives, especially those aged 25 to 34, a group that experienced a 25 percent rise in the period between 2007, when the recession began and 2011. Of that group, 45.3 percent were living below the poverty line, when their parents incomes were not taken into account.

This article, “U.S. Poverty Rate, 1 in 6, at Highest Level in Years,” originally appeared at The New York Times Service.