The poor economy has led Americans to cut corners on their life insurance-at levels not seen in half a century, according to a new study.

Only 44% of U.S. households have individual life insurance, according to the latest Trends in Life Insurance Ownership, a study conducted every six years by Limra, the investment research company.

That represents a 50-year low in U.S. life insurance ownership, according to the study, and means there are 11 million fewer housholds with life insurance than there were six years ago.

The number of households with no life insurance coverage at all has also gone from 22% to 30% over the past six years, according to the study. Among households with children under age 18, which arguably have the greatest need for life insurance, according to Limra, 11 million households have no coverage.

Forty percent of Americans say the reason they have not bought more life insurance is that other financial priorities, such as paying off debt and saving for retirement, are more important. Yet in households with children under 18, 40% say they would have trouble meeting daily expenses if the primary breadwinner died today. Another 30% say they would have trouble keeping up with expenses after several months.

"Clearly, more American families are living on the edge-surviving paycheck to paycheck-and, as our new study suggests, too many without the safety net that life insurance provides," said Robert Kerzner, president and CEO of Limra.