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43.6 million Americans hit by poverty

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Thanks to the recession, 2009 was one of the worst years for poverty in America in more than half a century. The total number of Americans living in poverty hit 43.6 million, the highest level in 51 years and the national poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent from 13.2 percent, according to data released last month by the Census Bureau.

All told, one in seven Americans are living in poverty. To visualize America’s startling rise in poverty, Mint, the personal finance site, put together this interactive chart of regional poverty rates.

Among the hardest-hit states are Louisiana, Mississippi and certain areas of Texas. States with the lowest poverty statistics include Wyoming, Hawaii, Minnesota and several East Coast states.

Though  suburban areas are now home to one-third of America’s poor, large cities have not been immune to the effects of the recession. Residents of cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami have seen some of the biggest drops in personal income in the last year.

Crippling poverty rates in many of America’s hardest-hit regions have been accompanied by several other disturbing trends for the middle class. Income inequality hit an all-time high before the recession, according University of California, Berkeley, economist Emmanuel Saez. States, faced with an estimated budget shortfall of $380 billion for 2011, have started to cut crucial services and have laid off thousands of workers.

Growing layoffs last year caused millions of Americans to lose employee-provided health insurance, leaving 16.7 percent of Americans with no health insurance, the highest level since the Census started collecting the data in 1987.

As income levels have been ravaged in areas particularly tied to the housing boom, some have speculated that industries like construction may never return to their pre-crisis levels.

Source: The Huffington Post

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