The 2010 data shows the poverty rate at 15.1%, from 14.3% in 2009. The number of Americans without health insurance also rose slightly to 49.9 million.
The poverty rate was the highest since 1983, and tied with the level in 1993.
The number of Americans living below the poverty line has now risen for four years in a row.
The US definition of poverty is an annual income of $22,314 (£14,129), or less for a family of four, and $11,139 for a single person.
More poor children
The Census Bureau data also showed that poverty among black and Hispanic people was much higher than for the overall US population last year – at 27.4% and 26.6% respectively.
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