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Rise In Poverty Recasts Long-Held Perceptions of 'Poor'28:29
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In Boston, many homeless people need a sleeping bag to deal with the cold. (Cool Librarian Photographer/Flickr)
In Boston, many homeless people need a sleeping bag to deal with the cold. (Cool Librarian Photographer/Flickr)

What does it mean to be poor? Well, try this: the official poverty rate for a family of four is a little over $22,000 a year. That's about $430 a week for rent, food, gas, utilities, clothes and anything else that you need to live on. Again, $430 a week for a family of four.

We're talking about this because more data about poverty were released Thursday from the 2010 census. Last week we learned that 1 in 6 Americans — more than 15 percent — are living in poverty. That's the highest poverty rate since 1993. And we learned the total number of Americans living in poverty is now at an all time high.

Sidney Fuller-Jones struggles to keep her head above water. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)
Sidney Fuller-Jones struggles to keep her head above water. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)

Now, we've learned a few other things from the data: The recession has clobbered young adults particularly hard. We also learned that the poverty rate in Massachusetts, while lower than the national average, still rose a full percentage point in 2010 — to 11.4 percent. Even though this state is doing better than much of the country, there are still some three quarters of a million people living in poverty here.

Sidney Fuller-Jones, a single mother after the death of her husband, is struggling to pay her family's bills, despite earning around $40,000 a year. And she's not alone.

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This segment aired on September 22, 2011.

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