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.