The national poverty rate remains stable but still is the highest in half a century.

The median household income in the United States was $50,054 last year, a 1.5 percent decline from 2010 and the second consecutive annual drop, reported the Census Bureau.

However, the national poverty rate at 15 percent was the same. There were approximately 46.2 million people in poverty in 2011.

“While the 2011 poverty rate is essentially unchanged, it’s at the highest rate in half a century, and the number of people in poverty has grown by half in the past decade alone,” said Nancy O. Andrews, president and CEO of the Low Income Investment Fund. “What concerns me most is that a lot of the growth has been among children—in fact one in five children is growing up poor. In addition, disparity in incomes among Americans is growing, a trend that is eroding the middle class. This gap has significant implications for our future economic prosperity, at a time when we can least afford it. Ensuring that families have affordable housing, particularly when it’s connected to other essential services such as transit, retail, and schools, is critical in helping provide stable places for children to grow and stabilizing family budgets.”

For a family of three, the poverty threshold was $17,916.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC), a national nonprofit that works for local organization to build affordable homes in rural areas, pointed out that poverty is greatest in America’s rural regions and central cities.

“The recent economic downturn is largely responsible for high poverty rates, but some communities in rural America have experienced extremely high levels of poverty for decades,” said Moises Loza, executive director of HAC.

 Through additional analysis of Census data, the organization has identified more than 400 “persistent poverty” counties that are largely rural in nature. One highly visible impact of this economic distress can be seen in these areas’ poor housing conditions. The incidence of housing units lacking adequate plumbing is more than twice the national rate, and nearly 400,000 households in these regions live in crowded conditions.

Other findings from the new Census Bureau report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011, include:

  • In 2011, 6.2 percent of married-couple families, 31.2 percent of families with a female householder, and 16.1 percent of families with a male householder lived in poverty. Neither the poverty rates nor the estimates of the number of families in poverty for these family types showed any statistically significant change between 2010 and 2011.
  • The real median earnings of men and women who worked full time, year-round declined by 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2011. The median earnings of men declined from $49,463 to $48,202, and those of women declined from $38,052 to $37,118. In 2011, the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.77.
  • In 2012, an estimated 9.7 million adults aged 25 to 34 (23.6 percent) were additional adults in someone else’s household.
  • Both the percentage and number of people with health insurance increased in 2011, to 84.3 percent and 260.2 million, up from 83.7 percent and 256.6 million in 2010.