Nearly 40 million people lived in poverty in the United States last year as the recession forced the first significant rise in the US poverty rate in five years, the US Census Bureau said in a report on Thursday.
The official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 per cent, up from 12.5 per cent in 2007, according to the Census Bureau's annual "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States" report.
The rise marked the first time since 2004, when the poverty rate climbed from 12.5 per cent to 12.7 per cent, that the percentage measure of US poor rose significantly, said David Johnson, head of the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division at the Census Bureau.
"2008 represented a period that was entirely within the recessionary period, which started in December 2007, so I think everyone expected an increase in the poverty rate," he said.
The number of Americans who lived in poverty also rose last year, from 37.3 million people in 2007 to 39.8 million people in 2008, "a level that is similar to other high levels we have experienced, in 1993 and 1960," said Johnson.
In the United States, a person or family is considered poor if their income is less than the poverty threshold for their size of household.
The poverty threshold for one person in 2008 was just under 11,000 dollars, and for a family of four was 22,025 dollars.