WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. poverty rate decreased to 11.3 percent of the population last year while American household income fell slightly, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
Nationwide, 31.1 million Americans lived in poverty, down from 32.3 million or 11.8 percent of the population in 1999. The median household income was $42,148. Accounting for inflation, that is down slightly from $42,187 the previous year.
``The drop in the poverty rate belongs to a larger story of economic recovery since the last recession,'' said Daniel Weinberg, chief of the bureau's division of housing and household economics statistics. ``Poverty rates tend to peak soon after a recession.''
Analysts have cautioned not to consider these figures an up-to-date barometer of the country's financial health.
The figures come from a survey of 50,000 households taken in March in response to questions about income and poverty status for 2000. As a result, experts have said it would not reflect recent turmoil in the economy.
Since 1993, Weinberg said, poverty rates have declined along most racial, ethnic and age groups.
The poverty rate for Americans under 18 was 16.2 percent, down for the third straight year, the bureau said. Even so, people under 18 still had a higher poverty rate than those in any other age group.
The poverty threshold differs by the size of the household. For instance, in 2000, a family of four was considered to be impoverished if the household earned $17,603 or less a year.
Median income refers to the point at which half of households earn more and half earn less.