WASHINGTON -- Several years of rising poverty in the United States came to a halt in 2011 as more workers found full-time work, but overall household incomes on average continued a decade-long slide and inequality rose further last year, the government said Wednesday.
The Census Bureau's annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage surprised analysts, who were projecting another tick up in the poverty rate, given the still-high unemployment rate and significant layoffs last year at local government offices. But the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line dipped to 15%, from 15.1% in 2010, a change considered statistically insignificant by the Census Bureau.
The poverty rate had gone up every year since 2007, but last year more people went from working part-time jobs to full-time ones. What's more, the job gains benefited many workers in lower-income households, especially in the South, said David Johnson, a Census Bureau division chief.
There was also good news in the measure of the health insurance coverage rate. The number of people in the U.S. going without health coverage last year fell to 48.6 million, from 50 million in 2010. There was a notable decline in the uninsured among adults 19 to 25 years of age, suggesting that they were benefiting from the new healthcare law allowing them to go under their parents' policies. And for the first time in a decade, the overall private medical-insurance coverage rate in the U.S. did not drop last year.