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Recession Plunging More Americans into Poverty

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An increasing number of U.S. citizens are falling into poverty and turning to the government for help.

New data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau found household incomes fell for all Americans in 2008 but that the drop was sharpest for middle income and poor families, pushing more than one million additional Americans into poverty.

The report said that elevated the U.S. poverty rate for 2008 to 13.2 percent, the highest it has been in 11 years.

The government defines poverty as annual earnings of less than $22,000 for a family of four with two children or earnings of less than $11,000 for one person.

Other Census Bureau data found the number of Americans turning to a government program that helps people buy food (the Food Stamps program) jumped, with the greatest increase coming from families with two or more adult workers.

Census bureau data shows poverty rates are highest in the southern part of the United States, with the southern state of Mississippi recording a poverty rate of more than 21 percent - the highest in the nation.

In all, 21 U.S. states had higher poverty rates than the national average of 13.2 percent.

Census Bureau officials warn the data does not reflect the complete impact of the recession.

The U.S. economy has lost 6.7 million jobs since the recession began in 2007, pushing the unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.7 percent in August.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.