WASHINGTON (AP) — The Census Bureau says the number of Americans in poverty stood at 15 percent in 2011 as the number of poor remained at record highs.

About 46.2 million people, or nearly 1 in 6, were in poverty.

The figures were better than the expectations of analysts who had predicted an increase due to persistently high unemployment.

The number in poverty in 2010 was 15.1 percent.

The unemployment rate improved modestly in 2011, but wage growth was weak.

University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger calls the poverty figures surprising and a sign that expiring unemployment benefits were able to help workers for much of the year.

The median — or midpoint — household income was $50,054. That’s a 1.5 percent decline from 2010.

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