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L.A. County poverty rate increases to 16% in 2009

September 28, 2010 |  2:37 pm

Los Angeles County’s poverty rate jumped to 16.1% in 2009, up from 15.2% the previous year, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

More than 1.56 million county residents lived below the poverty threshold, which is $10,956 for one person and $21,954 for a family of four, according to the bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

The poverty rate for Latinos was 21.9%, African Americans 19.7%, Asians 10.5% and whites 9.3%. During the same period, the median household income for county residents declined from $55,356 to $54,467, according to the report.

An estimated 29% of the county’s full-time workers earned less than $25,000 per year in 2009.

Meanwhile, the percentage of the population without health insurance increased to 22.6% -- or 2.2 million -- last year, compared to 21.7% the year before, the survey found.

The higher poverty level means higher costs for government programs, such as food stamps and unemployment compensation, and potentially heavier tax burdens for the country as a whole.

California's poverty rate jumped to 15.3% last year, the highest in 11 years. Analysis by the California Budget Project showed that 2 million children in the state lived in families with incomes below the poverty line.

States such as California and Illinois are feeling particular strain because they have been hit harder by the recession, with above-average levels of unemployment and home foreclosures.

For the U.S. as a whole, the rise in the poverty level that began a decade ago and accelerated during the recession has wiped out all the gains made during the long run of economic growth and prosperity in the 1990s.

The Census Bureau said 43.6 million people, or 14.3%,  lived below the poverty line last year, compared with 13.2% the previous year and 11.3% in 2000.

-- Carlos Lozano