About 46.2 million people, or nearly 1 in 6, were in poverty. That is not statistically different from the 15.1 percent who were impoverished in 2010.
In all, the number of poor remained at record highs. The figures were better than the expectations of analysts who had predicted an increase due to persistently high unemployment.
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The unemployment rate improved modestly in 2011, but wage growth was weak.
University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger 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. That’s a 1.5 percent decline from 2010.