The number of poor in the US climbed nearly 10 per cent in 2009 to 43.6 million people, the US Census Bureau has said.
The total represented 14.3 percent of the population, or every seventh person in the US. In 2008, 13.2 per cent - or 39.8 million people - were living below the poverty line, the government said.
The increase was the third consecutive annual rise in the number of people in poverty.
Because of growing unemployment last year, the proportion of people without health insurance also grew from 15.4 per cent of the population in 2008 to 16.7 per cent in 2009. All told, 50.7 million had no such insurance for some part of 2009.
Most American workers receive health insurance through their employers. Buying private insurance after being fired from a job is prohibitively expensive for most out-of-work Americans, though some jobless workers or their children are able to qualify for government health coverage.
The average poverty level is set at about $22,000 a year for a family of four, though the threshold varies around the country based on the coast of living.