U.S. Poverty Rate at its Highest Since 1993

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The fragile economy pushed more Americans into poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau, as median household income fell from the year before.

A report released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the portion of Americans living in poverty in 2010 rose to its highest level in almost two decades. There were 2.6 million more people living below the poverty line last year, pushing the total number up to 46.2 million, the largest number in the 52 years that poverty has been tracked in the U.S.

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And those above the poverty line have not fared well either. Median household income was $49,445 last year, down from $49,777 in 2009. And the median annual income for a male, full-time year-round worker was $47,715. In 1973, it was $49,065 when converted to 2010 dollars.

“The median, full-time male worker has made no progress on average,” Sheldon Danziger, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, told The New York Times.

The bottom 60 percent of U.S. households saw a drop in income while those making more than $100,000 and higher had a rise in income. And when adjusted for inflation, middle-income families only earned 11 percent more than they did in 1980. The incomes of the richest Americans (in the top 5 percent) increased 42 percent over the last three decades.

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The latest Census figures dovetail with a number of running narratives about the U.S. economy over the past few years and decades: Those with little have even less while those with more get more still; incomes have generally remained flat; and the economy isn’t getting back to where it was even just a few years ago.