After three years of increases, the nation's poverty rate held steady from 2010 to 2011, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau that also detailed trends in health insurance coverage and median income.

Nationwide, 15 percent of people, or about 46.2 million individuals, lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to estimates in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

Last year, the Census Bureau considered a family of two adults and two children in poverty if its annual household income was under $22,811.

Household median income in the United States declined 1.5 percent between 2010 and 2011, to $50,000, the survey concluded. Since 2007, median household income has fallen 8.1 percent, according to the Census Bureau — reflecting the impact of the recession that began in 2008.

Nationally, the number of people without health insurance coverage dropped by almost 16 percent from 2010 to 2011.

In 2011, 48.6 million people — or 16.3 percent of the population — were without some form of health insurance, down from 50 million the previous year.

The national survey also provided specifics by state on median income, poverty and health insurance coverage.

Next week, however, the Census Bureau is to release its 2011 update to the American Community Survey, which it says provides more accurate estimates at the state level.

David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau's household economics division, said that income equality had worsened during the period, with the top 1 percent of wage earners seeing a 6 percent increase in income over the last year, while income for the bottom 40 percent of workers stayed roughly level.

According to the estimates released Wednesday:

•Maryland had the nation's highest median income in 2011 — just shy of $69,000 in current dollars.

•The number of Marylanders in poverty last year was 537,000, or 9.3 percent of the state's population.

•Not quite 14 percent of Maryland's population, or 802,000 people, did not have health insurance last year.

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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