Poverty Rates Up in the United States

October 21, 2011United Statesby EW News Desk Team



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Poverty rates continue to rise in the United States, with the Southern States most badly affected. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of people living in poverty increased from 42.9 million in 2009 to 46.2 million during the same period in 2010.

At least 32 states experienced an increase in the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2009 and 2010, with 20 states experiencing a second consecutive annual increase.

With poverty estimates being an important indicator of economic well-being, the American Community Survey (commissioned by the US Census Bureau) found that the poverty rate increased from 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.3 percent in 2010.

The ranks of the poor rose in almost all U.S. states and cities in 2010, despite the end of the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression the year before, U.S. Census data released on Thursday showed.

"We saw the recession hit and unemployment increase, but we haven't seen a dramatic drop in unemployment," said Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research associate focusing on metropolitan issues at the Brookings Institution, in a report by Reuters.

Because we're still in this weak recovery, we could see these numbers get worse before they get better, she added.

The U.S. recession that began in 2007 took a steep toll across the country, sparing only a few places from rising joblessness and crashing incomes. More than a year after the recession officially ended in 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate remains above 9 percent; the poverty rate rose to 15.3 percent in 2010 from 14.3 percent in 2009.

In the survey, poverty status is determined by comparing annual income to a set of dollar values called poverty thresholds that vary by family size, number of children, and age of householder. The poverty line for America is measured at $22,314 pre-tax income for a family of four, not including non-cash benefits such as food stamps.

California as a whole had 14.2 percent of its residents - or 5,128,708 people - living in poverty in 2010, the Census Bureau says. It's the largest number, but not the largest percentage.

The dubious ‘honour’ goes to Puerto Rico where 45.0 percent of residents were in poverty. Among the 50 states, Mississippi had the worst poverty level at 21.9 percent.

The Washington region had the lowest poverty rate of any major metropolitan area in the country during the past two years, even though poverty is up significantly and continues to rise. About 8.4 percent of the region’s residents lived in poverty in 2010, compared with 6.8 percent before the recession began in 2007.

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