Another 72,000 South Carolinians slipped below the poverty line in 2009 as the Great Recession took its toll, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Tuesday.

The actual number might be as high as 100,000 or as low as 31,000, given the margins of error in the Census estimates, but in any case there are more people struggling to get by.

Census estimates likewise showed that household incomes declined last year everywhere except North Dakota and Washington, D.C., and more American families signed up for food stamps.

In South Carolina the median family income fell to $42,442, a decline of about $1,600 from 2008.

The median is the point where half of all families earn more and half earn less.

The just-released Census estimates, based on surveys of state residents, also said roughly 14 out of every 100 people in the United States were living in poverty last year. Poverty increased in 31 states and did not significantly decline in any, according to the Census Bureau.

If there is any good news, it is that the national poverty estimate is lower by about 600,000 people than an estimate released by the Census Bureau two weeks ago. However, that still is nearly 43 million people living in poverty, the most since the mid-1990s.

The Census estimates released Tuesday came from the American Community Survey questionnaires that were sent to about 2 million U.S. households last year.

The estimates are used to extrapolate information about the nation, states, counties and cities.

However, the number of surveys collected on the county level -- 2,200 in Charleston County, fewer than 1,000 each in Dorchester and Berkeley -- result in high margins of error that make it difficult to pinpoint changes from one year to the next.

On the state level, the Census Bureau estimated that in South Carolina the officially poor accounted for 17 of every 100 residents last year, with higher percentages in rural counties and lower ones in the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester area.

All the states in the Deep South and Southwest had higher rates of poverty than the nation, with at least 16 percent of residents living in poverty.

Single-mother households, children and people with limited educations were particularly likely to be poor. Households headed by married couples and college graduates were, perhaps not surprisingly, least likely to be poor.

The so-called poverty line depends upon family size and other factors.

Examples of the poverty line would be $11,161 for a single person under age 65 and $21,756 for a family of four consisting of two adults and two children.

Locally, Dorchester County was estimated to have matched the national poverty rate of 14.3 percent, Charleston County's rate was 16 percent, and Berkeley County's was 15.7 percent.