.4% rise in the number of americans living in poverty WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 1.3 million Americans slid into poverty in 2003 as the ranks of the poor swelled to 35.9 million, with children and blacks worse off than most, the U.S. government said on Thursday in a report sure to fuel Democratic criticism of President Bush. Despite the economic recovery, the percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose to 12.5 percent -- the highest since 1998 -- from 12.1 percent in 2002, the Census Bureau said in its annual poverty report. The widely cited scorecard on the nation's economy showed one-third of those in poverty were children. The number of U.S. residents without health care coverage also rose last year to the highest level since 1999 and incomes were essentially stagnant, the Census Bureau said. The poverty line is set at an annual income of $9,573 or less for an individual, or $18,660 for a family of four with two children. Under that measure, a family would spend about a third of its income on food. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has argued Bush's economic stewardship, including three rounds of tax cuts since 2001, has done more to help wealthy Americans than the poor or middle class. But analysts have said the poverty rate typically tracks the broad economy, rising during a recession and falling in boom times. America has struggled to recover from the 2001 slump, and job creation has lagged behind overall growth. The poverty rate has risen each year since 2000, when it was 11.3 percent. It hit a record low 11.1 percent in 1973. Children and most racial minorities again fared worse in 2003 than the overall population, according to the Census report. The rate of child poverty rose to 17.6 percent from 16.7 percent in 2002 -- boosting the number of poor children to 12.9 million. The poverty rate of African Americans remained nearly twice the national rate, with 24.4 percent of blacks living below the poverty line in 2003, nearly unchanged from 24.1 percent a year earlier. The report showed real median income for all races was unchanged at $43,318 in 2003, while the number of Americans with no health care coverage rose to 45.0 million from 43.6 million in 2002. Democrats criticized the government's decision to release the highly anticipated report in mid-August -- when many people are on vacation -- rather than sticking to the usual September release. They also said the decision to release both the health insurance and poverty statistics in the same report was a bid to minimize media coverage of the worsening lives of the poor. "Hmmmm. We wonder if these moves have anything to do with the fact that George Bush is running for re-election. Remember, the last time that the annual census figures were released in August was in 1992 to hide bad news in an election year," the Kerry campaign said in a statement. wonder how this will affect the voter polls for awhile?