According to new data released today by the Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans living in poverty rose to 15.1 percent last year, the highest level of poverty since 1993. In 2010 a record 46.2 million people were below the poverty line, defined as income less than $22,314 a year for a family of four and $11,139 for individuals. It was the fourth consecutive year that the number of people in poverty has increased in America. Real median household income fell 2.3 percent to $49,445—lower than it was in 1997 and barely a 25 percent improvement since the 1960s.
Unsurprisingly, the Census data shows that the Great Recession only exacerbated longstanding economic disparities between geographic regions and racial categories. In 2010, the poverty rate varied significantly in the United States, with Blacks, Hispanics, and the southern states experiencing far greater economic hardship than Whites, Asians, and the northern states.
The highest poverty rates in the nation belonged to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C.—each with approximately one out of every five people living in poverty—while New Hampshire enjoyed the lowest rate, with just 6.6 percent below the poverty line.
The 2010 Census data also confirmed that economic inequality between racial groups in the United States remains a major obstacle to social justice, with the poverty rate for Blacks nearly three times that of Whites. While poverty rates increased across the board, the setback was particularly dramatic for Blacks and Hispanics, erasing several years of economic gains.