Ranks of Poorest Poor Swell to New High One in 15 live below half the poverty level By Polly Davis Doig, Newser Staff Posted Nov 3, 2011 7:53 AM CDT 84 comments Comments Avery Bennett, 3, eats lasagna at an evening child care program, part of a pilot to provide nutritious suppers to kids in communities where more than half of households fall below the poverty level. (AP Photo/Jason R. Henske) (Newser) – We've got the top 1%, the 99%, and the 53%, but the poorest of the nation's poor has hit a new high: 6.7% of Americans now fall below half of the federal poverty line, reports the AP. That means about 20.5 million Americans, or one in 15, are living on annual income of $5,570 for an individual or $11,157 for a family of four. That handily beats previous highs of just more than 6% in 1993 and 2009. The malaise exists across the board, with 40 states and the District of Columbia seeing increases in the poorest poor since 2007; none saw decreases. DC, Mississippi, and New Mexico took the top three slots. "There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners," says an expert. And the scars of recession may be permanent: "The worry now is that the downturn—which will end eventually—will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can't recover."