Poverty rate reaches high point
According to the 2010 census, the 14.3 percent poverty rate, which covers all ages, was the highest since 1994. It was lower than predicted by many demographers who were bracing for a record gain based on last year’s skyrocketing unemployment. Many had predicted a range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.
Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 23.1 percent, according to rough calculations by the Census Bureau. It was followed by Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas and Georgia. On the other end of the scale, New Hampshire had the lowest share, at 7.8 percent.
Among the working-age population, ages 18 to 65, poverty rose from 11.7 percent to 12.9 percent. That puts it at the highest since the 1960s, when the government launched a war on poverty that expanded the federal role in social welfare programs from education to health care.
Poverty rose among all race and ethnic groups, but stood at higher levels for blacks and Hispanics. The number of Hispanics in poverty increased from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent; for blacks it increased from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent. The number of whites in poverty rose from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent.
Child poverty rose from 19 percent to 20.7 percent.
In 2009, the poverty level was $21,954 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership.
As a result, the official poverty rate takes into account the effects of some stimulus programs but doesn’t factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits and food stamps, which have surged to record levels in recent months.