Report: Number of US poor hit record 46 mln in 2010

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The number of Americans  living below the poverty line rose to a record 46 million last  year, the U.S. government said yesterday, underscoring the  challenges facing President Barack Obama and Congress as they  try to tackle high unemployment and a moribund economy.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty  and health insurance coverage said the national poverty rate  climbed for a third consecutive year to 15.1 percent in 2010 as  the U.S. economy struggled to recover from the recession that  began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

That marked a 0.8 percent increase from 2009, when there  were 43.6 million Americans living in poverty.

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

The specter of economic deterioration also afflicted  working Americans who saw their median income decline 2.3  percent to an annual $49,445.

About 1.5 million fewer Americans were covered by  employer-sponsored health insurance plans, while the number of  people covered by government health insurance increased by  nearly 2 million.

All told, the number of Americans with no health insurance  hovered at 49.9 million, up slightly from 49 million in 2010.

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.

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