The Census Bureau says the number of Americans in poverty stood at 15% in 2011 as the number of poor remained at record highs. About 46.2 million people, or nearly 1 in 6, were in poverty. The figures were better than the expectations of analysts who had predicted an increase due to persistently high unemployment. The number in poverty in 2010 was 15.1%.
That figure improved modestly in 2011, but wage growth was weak. A University of Michigan economist calls the poverty figures surprising and a sign that expiring unemployment benefits were able to help workers for much of the year. The median, or midpoint, household income was $50,054—a 1.5% decline from 2010. (Read more poverty rate stories.)