People Living in Poverty Rises 2.2 Million in '11

About 2.2 million more people lived in poverty in 2011 than the year before, bringing the total percentage of those living in poverty to 15.9, the annual American Community Survey data shows.

(Related Wall Street Journal Story: Incomes Fell or Stagnated in Most States Last Year)

The ACS data, released Thursday, show that most of the country's 48.5 million poor people live in the South and West regions. (A similar report using different methodology released last week indicated a steady rate of povery.)

By state, the ACS data show that the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, Maryland, and New Jersey had a poverty rate lower than 11 percent. Seventeen states had poverty rates exceeding 16 percent, up from 13 states the previous year.

Puerto Rico's poverty rate at 45.6 percent was not statistically different from the 45 percent in 2010.

The Washington, D.C,  metropolitan area had the lowest percentage of poor people at 8.3 percent, while the McAllen, Texas, area  had the highest at 37.7 percent.

Here are the top five metro regions with the lowest poverty rates:

    1. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria
    2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
    3. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
    4. Honolulu
    5. Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.

    Here are the top five metro regions with the highest poverty rates:

    1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
    2. Fresno, Calif.
    3. El Paso, Texas
    4. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.
    5. Modesto, Calif.

On a state level, four of the top five states with the lowest poverty rates were along the East Coast. In contrast, the top five states with the highest poverty rates ran along the South.

Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in the nation, with 22.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line. New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky rounded out the top five.

In contrast, take a look at the racial breakdown of the top five states with the lowest poverty rates. New Hampshire boasts the lowest poverty rate, with just 8.8 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Maryland, New Jersey, Alaska and Connecticut round out the top five.

Here's a racial/ethnic breakdown of poverty rates for the U.S. and the top states with the highest and lowest rates. Hover over the bars to see the percentages for each race/ethnicity.