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While Poverty Rose Again, Data Hint Economy May Have Found Its Feet

(We retopped this post at 8 a.m. ET.)

Though fresh data from the Census Bureau show that the number of Americans living in poverty edged higher in 2011, its latest American Community Survey also signals that after a Great Recession and a painfully slow recovery the U.S. economy may finally be bottoming out.

The Associated Press leads its report on the news this way:

"The U.S. economy is showing signs of finally bottoming out: Americans are on the move again after record numbers had stayed put, more young adults are leaving their parents' homes to take a chance with college or the job market, once-sharp declines in births are leveling off and poverty is slowing."

Reuters focuses on this news: "Fewer U.S. states show income drop, Vermont's up." As it points out, "Vermont's 4 percent rise in median household income last year was the first shown by a state since 2009, the Census Bureau said."

Our original post — "Census: In 2011, Number Of Poor Americans Increased" — and an earlier update:

The United States Census has released its yearly American Community Survey, which uses a sample of the U.S. population to provide information on everything from disability to race and ethnicity.

It's a lot of data, so analysis of will trickle in throughout the day. We'll share with you highlights on three important facets:

-- The number of Americans living in poverty grew to 15.9 percent in 2011. It was 15.3 in 2010. That means that 48.5 million Americans had an income below the poverty level.

The Census reports:

"This was the fourth consecutive increase in the poverty rate, but the percentage point increase between 2010 and 2011 was smaller than the change between 2008 and 2009, and between 2009 and 2010."

-- Young Americans are one of the first to feel the effects of the Affordable Care Act, which is known colloquially as Obamacare.

According to the Census, once young Americans aged 19 to 25 could be added to their parents' plans, there was a 3.5 percent increase in the number insured.

The Census compared that number to to those aged 26 to 29, who saw a decline of almost 1 percent in the number of those insured during the same period.

-- Household incomes continue to fall.

"Real median household income in the United States fell between the 2010 ACS and the 2011 ACS, decreasing by 1.3 percent from $51,144 to $50,502," the Census reports.

Update at 6:45 a.m. ET, Sept. 20. On Morning Edition:

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C., tells NPR's Richard Gonzales that even though the poverty rate edged higher and incomes edged lower, "there's at least a hint that we've hit bottom in this post-recession malaise."

Frey says that because "we're going down at a slower pace."

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Richard Gonzales on 'Morning Edition'

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.