That's an 11-year high, and it means that nearly 40 million Americans were living below the poverty line, the equivalent of a family of four living on about $22,000 or less a year. CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston has more on the stark reality behind the numbers.
In Wesson, Miss., Denise Guidry's life is upside-down. Once a stay-at-home mom, she's now struggling to pay the bills after her husband lost his job paying six figures as a pipeline worker. Now, he looks for work out of state.
"I tried to take up the slack which was very hard," Guidry said. "I'm working three jobs and I can't make it."
Trying to avoid foreclosure, they're renting out their five-bedroom home and living in an RV with five children. The most difficult part of the adjustment has been being apart from her children, Guidry said, sobbing.
Poverty: The Faces behind the Numbers
Eric Hill moved from North Carolina to New York last year thinking he could find work as a bricklayer.
"Everyone has an ambition to have something in life and to be able to support themselves," he said.
But his dream went nowhere, sending Hill and his family of five into shelters and soup kitchens.
"It hurts. It hurts to want to have something more than what you have," he said.
Two families, two examples of the newest members of America's poor, who number 2.5 million more than in 2007. That means one out of every seven Americans is struggling. The hardest hit, married couples with families - half a million half a million households plunged into poverty.
"More and more families simply don't have enough income from work," said Nancy Cauthen, director of the Economic Opportunities Program at the non-profit Demos. "They're working but their incomes aren't keeping up with the rising cost of things."
The latest government numbers revive a long-standing debate about the way poverty is counted. Some experts say the current measurement fails to take account of today's economy. The way poverty is measured was devised over 50 years ago, based mostly on the cost of food. It did not include modern expenses such as transportation, housing, child care and medical costs.
"We've had to get on assistance, had to get Medicaid," Guidry said.
The new poverty numbers don't reflect the downturn of 2009, when unemployment has reached almost 10 percent. That means there's worse news to come.