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The U.S. poverty rate leveled off last year for the first time since the Great Recession, but the halting recovery deepened the financial pain for middle-class families and pushed to a new high the income gap between the country's richest and poorest citizens.
The number and share of people living in poverty was essentially unchanged from 2010 levels. That ended four straight years of increases, though not in California, where the rate rose to a 16-year high, the Census Bureau said Wednesday.
There was no relief for the average American: The median household income, after adjusting for inflation, dropped 1.5% in 2011 from the previous year to $50,054. That is now 8.1% lower than in 2007, when the recession began late that year.
The biggest hit fell on the middle- and lower-income groups, while upper-end households saw their incomes essentially unchanged. That raised one common index of inequality in America to an all-time high.
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