Continued high unemployment drove the number of Americans living in poverty to a record high in 2010 and dragged down median household income for the third straight year since the Great Recession first darkened the nation's economy in 2007.
More than a year after the economic recovery officially began in June 2009, 46.2 million people had annual earnings below the poverty line last year, up from 43.6 million the previous year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday. That's the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
The 2010 U.S. poverty rate of 15.1 percent was the highest since 1993, and it was up nearly a full percentage point from 2009. Poverty rates increased for all racial groups except Asians.
Government analysts say the problem is rooted in the 86.7 million working-age adults who were unemployed for at least a week last year, compared with 83.3 million in 2009.
That spike of 3.4 million people “might be the single most important factor contributing to the increase in the poverty rate,” said Trudi Renwick, the head of poverty statistics at the Census Bureau.