Census: U.S. Poverty Up, Income Down

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The U.S. poverty rate rose for the first time in eight years and household income fell last year, a double dose of bad economic news that coincided with the first recession in a decade, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

There were 32.9 million Americans living in poverty last year, up from 31.6 million in 2000. The rate of 11.7 percent was up from 11.3 percent the previous year, which was the lowest level since 1974.

The median household income in 2001 declined 2.2 percent to $42,228, the second straight drop, according to the bureau.

Many analysts had predicted that the poverty rate, which is calculated annually by the Census Bureau, would rise in 2001 as unemployment rose and the economy slipped into recession.

The figures come from a survey of 50,000 households taken in March in response to questions about income and poverty.

Daniel Weinberg, chief of the Census Bureau's economic statistics division, said every region saw a decline in median household income except the Northeast, where it was flat.

Median income refers to the point at which half of households earn more and half earn less.

The poverty threshold differs by the size of the household. The bureau calculated that for a family of four, the level in 2001 was $18,104, up from $17,603.

The poverty rate rose for every racial group, while the median income fell.

Blacks had the highest poverty rate, 22.7 percent, up from 22.5 percent, and income fell from $30,495 to $29,470, the first decline in 19 years.

The poverty rate for whites increased from 7.4 percent to 7.8 percent, while income fell 1.3 percent, to $46,305.

Hispanics, which the Census Bureau classifies as an ethnic group rather than a racial category, had a slight decline in poverty, 21.5 percent to 21.4 percent, but income also fell, from $34,094 to $33,565.

The poverty rate for Asian-Pacific Islanders rose from 9.9 to 10.2 while income fell six percent to $53,635.