WASHINGTON (AFP) - Nearly 40 million Americans lived below the bread line last year as the recession dragged down incomes sparking the first major rise in the poverty rate in five years, an official report showed Thursday. Real median household income declined by 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 ... and the decline was widespread, said the annual Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States report from the Census Bureau. The official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007, according to the report. This marked the first significant rise since 2004, said David Johnson, head of the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. 2008 represented a period that was entirely within the recessionary period, which started in December 2007, so I think everyone expected an increase in the poverty rate, he said. The number of Americans who lived in poverty also rose last year, from 37.3 million people in 2007 to 39.8 million people in 2008, a level that is similar to other high levels we have experienced, in 1993 and 1960, said Johnson. In the United States, a person or family is considered poor if their income is less than the poverty threshold for their size of household. The poverty threshold for one person in 2008 was just under 11,000 dollars, and for a family of four was $22,025. Last year average US household income dropped from 52,163 dollars in 2007 to 50,303 dollars, a fall that the report blamed on the economic crisis, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nearly 25 percent of blacks, or 9.4 million people, lived in poverty in the United States in 2008, compared to 8.6 percent of whites, or 17 million people. Poverty hit the children of single mothers particularly hard, with more than half of children under the age of six who were being raised by a single mum living in poverty. There was a slim silver lining: the percentage of people without health insurance held steady, at 15.4 percent, and the number of people with health insurance rose from 253.4 million in 2007 to 255.1 million last year. But that still meant that 46.3 million people in the United States had no health coverage last year up from 45.7 million in 2007. Although the poverty rate and uninsured rate for black Americans remained statistically unchanged from 2007, they were still triple or double the rates for whites. The uninsured rate for non-Hispanic whites in 2008 rose to 10.8 percent from 10.4 percent, around half the 19.1 percent for blacks. Among Asians, 11.8 percent (1.6 million) lived in poverty in 2008, up from 10.2 percent (1.3 million) in 2007. And among Hispanics, 23.2 percent (11.0 million) were in poverty in 2008, higher than the 21.5 percent (9.9m) in 2007. The uninsured rate for Asians remained statistically unchanged from 2007, at 17.6pc, while the rate for Hispanics fell from 32pc to 30.7 percent.