New data released by the Census Bureau on September 13 shows an estimated 46.2 million people lived in poverty in the United States in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009. This is the fourth consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate and the largest poverty estimate since the Census began to measure this variable over fifty years ago.
The national poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009. The share of Americans living in poverty reached the highest level since 1993. Since 2007, the start of the recession, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6%.
Real median household income fell to $49,445 in 2010, providing further indication of financial stress across households. Median household income declined 7.1% from peak income levels recorded in 1999.
Falling incomes have not affected all Americans equally. The poverty rate for female-lead households rose to 31.6% from 29.9% in 2009. The poverty rate among children rose to 22.0% in 2010 from 20.7% in 2009. Nearly 60% of all children under the age of 6 in families with a female head householder lived in poverty as of 2010. Children continue to account for a disproportionately higher percentage of the population in poverty (35.5%) even though they compose only a quarter of the total population.
The poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,314, as defined by the Office Management and Budget for 2010. The poverty estimates in the report compare the poverty threshold to income before taxes, not including noncash benefits. This threshold does not take into account the rising costs of living, but this factor will be taken into account when the new Supplemental Poverty Measure is released by the Census Bureau in October of 2011.
According to the report findings, the number of doubled up households increased by two million since the start of the recession in 2007. Doubled-up households are defined as those that include at least one person not enrolled in school and over the age of 18, who is not the cohabiting partner of the primary householder. By spring of 2011, the number of doubled-up households totaled 21.8 million and represented 18.3% of all households.
Among young adults (ages 25-34), a total of 5.9 million (14.2%) lived with their parents as of spring 2011. Among young adults living with their parents, 45% have an income below the poverty threshold for a single individual and would add substantially to the number of households in poverty if they lived independently.
These findings, and many more, are documented in the report, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010 and reflect data collected as part of the 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS).
The report can be found at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf and the press release from the Census Bureau summarizing the findings is available at: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb11-157.html