Record Number of Americans in Poverty

Median Household income sags, dragging more down and making specter of government cutbacks scarier.

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According to Christopher, America's jobs problem is structural; that is, it's caused by a mismatch between workers' skills and jobs available. Low-skill jobs that have gone overseas, he says, "are not going to come back, at least not at a very fast rate." This will cause not only more income inequality, he says, but a particularly slow return to normal employment as the nation tries to create a more educated workforce.

President Obama has attempted to address that question with a new worker training program, also among the proposals in his jobs bill. But such a program might only see limited success.

"There's a bunch of people who are really not trained to do anything," says Christopher. "[Retraining them] takes a tremendous amount of time. You can't take a construction worker and turn them into a computer programmer. How that works is a very difficult question."

Until these difficult questions of worker retraining, wage growth, and job creation are answered, in short, Americans can expect to see more and more of their compatriots slip below the poverty threshold.

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  • Corrected on : Corrected on 09/16/11: An earlier version of this article misstated the scope of the Census’ newest poverty figures. The figures show the greatest number of Americans in poverty on record. The figures also show that households with children, headed by women with no husbands present, experience a 40.7 percent poverty rate.