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More and more New Yorkers are sinking into poverty, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, as the city’s average income plummets.

Nearly 21 percent of city residents fell below the poverty line (defined as earning less than $11,500 a year or $23,021 for a family of four) in New York City last year, up nearly one percentage point from 2010 and more than two points over 2009.

Queens has seen an even sharper increase in the rate of poverty: from 12.6 percent in 2009 to 15.8 percent last year.

“These poverty numbers reflect a national challenge: the U.S. economy has shifted and too many people are getting left behind without the skills they need to compete and succeed,” Samantha Levine, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, told the New York Times.

The numbers were released from the American Community Survey on Wednesday.

Senior citizens were hit hardest by the rise in hardship with 15.1 percent living in poverty in 2011 up from 12.1 percent the year before.

The city’s median household income — $49,461 — dropped below the national average in 2011 which came in at $50,502. The average income per household dropped $7,000 in the city and more than $5,000 in Queens to $85,926 and $77,284, respectively.

Hard times did not hit all income groups. According to the New York Times, the median income for the lowest fifth of New Yorkers was “$8,844, down $463 from 2010. For the highest, it was $223,285, up $1,919.”


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