From Reuters, writer Lucia Mutikani gives us the statistics.
The Census Bureau said the poverty rate rose to 13.2 percent in 2008, the highest level since 1997, from 12.5 percent in 2007. About 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007.
The government defines poverty as an annual income of $22,025 for a family of four, $17,163 for a family of three and $14,051 for a family of two.
Real median household income fell 3.6 percent, the biggest annual drop since 1991, to $50,303 in 2008.
"This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007," said David Johnson, head of Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division.
The longest and deepest recession in 70 years has been marked by rising unemployment as companies aggressively cut payrolls to cope with slumping demand.
As of August, the unemployment rate was at 9.7 percent, the highest in 26 years, and almost 7 million people had lost their jobs since the start of the recession.
Analysts said the poverty and income figures underscored the depth of the strain on households.