The US authorities has announced that 14 per cent of Americans are living in poverty, the highest level since 1994.
The government defines poverty as a family of four living on less than $22,000 a year.
The statistics cover President Barack Obama's first year in office, when the recession left millions of people out of work and unemployment climbed to more than 10 per cent.
The report's release comes just weeks before the economy takes centre stage in upcoming US elections.
Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from El Centro, California.