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Census Bureau: Nation's poverty rate was 14.5 percent in 2013

Job seekers are seen here waiting in line

Job seekers are seen here waiting in line to meet with recruiters during a job fair in Philadelphia on June 23, 2014. Credit: AP

There were 45.3 million Americans -- 14.5 percent of the population -- living at or below the poverty line last year, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday.

That poverty rate was a drop from 15 percent the year before, though the number of people living in poverty was not statistically different from 2012, the bureau said. The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2013 was a household income of $23,834.

It was the third consecutive year that the number of people living at or below the poverty line was not a statistically significant change from the prior year's estimate, the bureau said.

Charles T. Nelson, assistant chief of the bureau's economic characteristics division, explained that this dynamic was largely because of the growth in the country's population over the year.

"It does take a larger change to affect the number of people in poverty," Nelson said, adding that there also was a rise in full-time employment.

The bureau reported a reduction in the poverty rate among children -- for the first time since 2000 -- and a drop in the number of children in poverty. The rate fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013, and the number of children in poverty declined from 16.1 million to 14.7 million during the period.

In addition, the bureau said the nation's median household income in 2013 was $51,939 -- an increase from 2012's median of $51,759, but not a statistically significant change. It came, however, after two consecutive years of decline in the median income.

The agency Tuesday also released information on health insurance coverage, using two measures.

The first, the bureau's Current Population Survey, found that 13.4 percent of the population, 42 million people, did not have health insurance coverage for the entire year in 2013, while 86.6 percent did have coverage for all or part of the year.

The bureau changed the health insurance coverage questions in the 2013 CPS for greater accuracy, so comparisons with previous CPS data on coverage rates cannot be made, the agency said.

Jennifer Cheeseman Day, the agency's assistant chief for employment characteristics, said the survey's redesigned questions are poised to be a baseline for in-depth analysis next year on the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Some queries, for example, address the new state health insurance exchanges.

In the meantime, year-to-year comparisons using other surveys can allow people to "gauge whether the numbers are going up or going down," she said.

The bureau's second measure, the American Community Survey, found that 14.5 percent of the nation's population was uninsured in 2013, down from 14.8 percent in 2012 -- a statistically significant change, the bureau said. The ACS also found that 10.7 percent of New Yorkers lacked health insurance in 2013, essentially unchanged from the 10.9 percent without it in 2012's survey.

Thursday, the bureau plans to release poverty and income data for the states, along with data in all categories for communities with populations of at least 65,000.

New York State of Health, the state's health-plan marketplace, said in a statement Tuesday that it expects to see a "continued reduction in the number of uninsured New Yorkers," noting that more than 80 percent of people were uninsured when they applied for coverage through the state exchange.

Another federal agency, the National Center for Health Statistics, released results from its survey earlier Tuesday, showing 13 percent of the population lacked coverage in the first three months of 2014, down from 14.4 percent in all of 2013, providing early data on the impact of the Affordable Care Act.

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