Today, the Census Bureau released its 2011 American Community Survey report, which showed that the poverty rate in America is still increasing in the wake of the recession, though the rate of increase is slowing. According to NPR: The number of Americans living in poverty grew to 15.9 percent in 2011. It was 15.3 in 2010. That means that 48.5 million Americans had an income below the poverty level.
And from the AP’s report: While poverty slowed, food stamp use continued to climb. Roughly 14.9 million, or 13 percent of U.S. households, received food stamps, the highest level on record. … Government programs did much to stave off higher rates of poverty. While the official poverty rate for 2011 remained stuck … the government formula did not take into account non-cash aid such as food stamps, which the Census Bureau estimates would have lifted 3.9 million people above the poverty line. If counted, that safety net would have lowered the poverty rate to 13.7 percent. And without expanded unemployment benefits, which began expiring in 2011, roughly 2.3 million people would have fallen into poverty. Last week, we found out from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey that a measure of inequality called the Gini Index rose in 2011 as well, meaning the country’s wealth gap is rising. Coincidentally, Forbes provided some more concrete evidence of this yesterday when it released its annual list of the 400 richest people in the country—and those 400 Americans are doing quite well. According to Forbes, their net worth rose by an average of $400 million per person to an average of $4.2 billion per person. Their collective total wealth reached $1.7 trillion. Put another way, that’s $35,000 for every American living in poverty. The Koch brothers and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ranked in the top 10, along with four members of the Walton family. Sheldon Adelson came in 12th.