Official figures released by the Census Bureau suggest the share of Americans living in poverty has finally dropped after five years to 12.3 per cent in 2006, from 12.6 per cent a year ago, as median household income increased slightly to $48,200.
The latest figures did not indicate how the more than 2.15 million people of Indian origin in America fared, but previous statistics put Indian American median family income at $61,322.
The increase in national median income appeared to be mainly the result of a jump in the number of people per household who held a full-time job rather than a rise in wages. Earnings of both men and women declined by slightly more than one per cent.
Although the poorest households had the largest percentage income gain from 2005 to last year, income inequality remains at a record high. The share of income going to the five per cent of households with the highest incomes has never been greater.
The slight drop in the poverty rate was driven by a decrease in poverty among those older than 65. There was no change in the rates for children or for adults 18 to 24.
The last significant decline in the poverty rate came in 2000, during the Clinton administration, when it went down from 11.9 percent to 11.3 percent. The poverty rate increased every year for the next four years, peaking at 12.7 percent in 2004.
Mississippi had the highest poverty rate, at 21.1 percent. It was followed by Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and West Virginia. Mississippi also had the lowest median income, at $34,473. It was followed by West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama.
Maryland edged out New Jersey - home to many Indian Americans - as the richest US state, with a median household income of $65,144. Maryland had the lowest poverty rate, at 7.8 percent. It was followed by New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey and Hawaii.
The number of Americans without health insurance rose to a record 47 million, or 15.8 percent, the highest percentage since 1998. In 1993, 39.7 million Americans were without health insurance.
The addition of about 2.2 million people to the ranks of those without medical insurance was attributed largely to continuing declines in employer-sponsored insurance coverage, census officials said.
Children fared worse. Last year, 11.7 per cent of people younger than 18 lacked health insurance, up from 10.9 per cent in 2005. The percentage of uninsured children has increased two years in a row after declining for at least five years, according to the census data.
The administration recently announced new administrative rules that will make it harder for states to enrol children from families that earn more than 250 percent of the poverty level, or $51,625 for a family of four.
The new census data show that many of the newly uninsured are working Americans from middle- and high-income families. Of the 2.2 million people who became uninsured in 2006, 1.4 million had a household income of $75,000 or higher. About 1.2 million of the newly uninsured worked full time.