The Census Bureau says the number of Americans in poverty remained about the same from 2010 to last year, while family income declined 1.5 percent.
About 46.2 million people, or nearly 1 in 6 of Americans, were in poverty in 2011.
The median -- or midpoint -- household income in 2011 was $50,054.
The figures were better than the expectations of analysts who had predicted an increase due to persistently high unemployment.
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.