Of the 15 percent of Americans living below the poverty line, the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey indicated 44 percent are considered to be in "deep poverty," defined as an income 50 percent or more below the poverty line. That's a 2 percent increase from 42 percent before the recession and near the highest level since Census data became available in 1975, officials indicated.
Last year, 6.6 percent of Americans were classified as living in deep poverty, up from 4.5 percent in 2000, when the economy was strong, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The federal poverty line is considered an income of $23,492 for a family of four.
Economists offer several reasons why the number of people in deep poverty is rising, including cutbacks on cash assistance for very low-income families with children since the welfare overhaul in the 1990s, the nation's hum-drum economic recovery and the still-high unemployment rate since the 2007-09 recession, the Journal said.
"People in deep poverty are likely to be the least competitive in the job market, and so when there are still a lot of job seekers out there for any opening, it's hard to break in," Luke Shaefer, assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Social Work, told the Journal.
A separate survey by the U.S. Census Bureau indicated deep poverty rates rose in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2000 and 2012, with states in the South and Midwest experiencing some of the biggest percentage increases.