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Economy & Policy

American Poverty Worsens as Economy Struggles


A U.S. flag flutters over top of the skyline of New York (R) and Jersey City (L), as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey, August 6, 2011. New York will mark the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center with ceremonies on September 11. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE DISASTER IMAGES OF THE DAY) (Reuters)

The number of Americans living below the poverty line rose to a record 46.2 million last year as the U.S. economy struggled to recover from recession, the federal government said Tuesday.

In a report that underscores the daunting economic challenges facing President Barack Obama and Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau said the national poverty rate climbed for a third consecutive year. It rose 0.8 percent to 15.1 percent from 2009, when there were 43.6 million Americans living in poverty.

The report said the number of poor Americans in 2010 was the largest in the 52 years that it has been publishing poverty estimates while the poverty rate was the highest since 1993.

Median U.S. household income also fell 2.3 percent to an annual $49,445 while the number of Americans without health insurance hovered near the 50 million mark.

The economic deterioration depicted by the figures is likely to have continued into 2011 as economic growth diminished, unemployment remained stuck above 9 percent and fears grew of a possible double-dip recession.

The report of rising poverty coincides with Obama's push for a $450 billion job creation package, and deliberations in Congress aimed at cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget deficit over the next 10 years.

Faced with flagging job approval ratings, the president is trying to convince Republicans in Congress to support his package.

Analysts said poverty-related issues have relatively little hold on politicians in Washington but hoped the new figures would encourage the bipartisan ``super committee'' to avoid deficit cuts that would hurt the poor.

The United States has long had one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. Among 34 countries tracked by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Chile, Israel and Mexico have higher rates of poverty.