The Census Bureau released poverty figures for 2010 on Tuesday. The figures are a sobering reflection of the economic hardships confronting growing numbers of Americans and the enduring nature of the so-called war on poverty.Since the 1960s, the federal government has identified who is poor by setting thresholds for poverty according to family size and income. The thresholds are adjusted yearly for inflation. Last year, the poverty guidelines for the Department of Health and Human Services deemed a single adult with income below $10,830 to be in poverty. For a family of four, the threshold was $22,050.Thus measured, the Census Bureau's data indicate that an additional 2.6 million people fell into poverty last year, raising the number of Americans living below the official poverty level from 14.3 percent of the population in 2009 to 15.1 percent. The 46.2 million poor represent the largest number in the 52-year history of poverty tracking.Median household income dipped last year to 1997 levels. The poverty rate has climbed among children and working-age people, blacks and Hispanics suffering the largest increases. The report also indicates the number of Americans who lack health insurance continued to rise last year.It often is argued that poverty is a relative description, and that the official measure of poverty is flawed and overstates the number of the truly poor because the measure does not take into account a well-established system of government support, for example, Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies, tax credits and cash assistance.There's no question that being in poverty in America, for the most part, is nothing like the abject deprivation so evident in many parts of the world. All the same, however poverty is measured, the latest figures underscore the disturbing trend. In each of the past four years, the poverty levels have risen. More American households are earning less and are less capable of meeting their needs. People in their prime working years are having a harder time finding work. Increasingly worrisome, their prospects of climbing back up are dimmed by prolonged unemployment and an economy that is not creating jobs fast enough.No less disturbing, the safety-net system that helps alleviate deep poverty itself is in jeopardy, social-service and assistance programs pared down by severe cuts in government and private funding. The annual poverty count may not be accurate to the last hungry household. What it does is alert a wealthy nation to the reality that more of its citizens are losing their hold on a decent life.