Longer-Term View Adds Context to Census Poverty Data

13 September, 2017, 00:42 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Census Bureau

The second straight annual increase raised the median household income to $59,039, from $57,230 in 2015.

Of those with coverage previous year, just over two-thirds of Americans had private insurance, mostly from their employers. However, the Census Bureau warned against making direct comparisons because of changes in its methodology, made in 2014.

And now for the buzzkill portion of this post: this means household income has increased a whopping 0.6 percent since 1999.

The poorest US households, by comparison, have a smaller share of income than ever before.

The bureau said the 2016 poverty rate was not significantly higher than the 12.5 percent poverty rate in 2007, the year before the most recent US recession.

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That percentage-point increase in 2015 was the largest since 1998, when real median income increased 3.7 percent from 1997, Jonathan Rothbaum, chief of the bureau's statistics branch, said in an online analysis at the time. That is the second gain in two years.

Still, male workers - one of President Trump's core group of supporters - earned less last year than they did a year earlier, while income inequality shows no signs of abating, according to the latest Census data.

The new official poverty rate in the country is 12.7 percent. Nevertheless, the Census data indicates that the most recent income gains have pushed household income close to where it stood in 2007.

And the proportion of Americans without health insurance declined to 8.8 percent, the report showed, down from 9.1 percent. The number of people living below the poverty line dropped 2.5 million to 40.6 million. Tom Hirschl, sociologist and co-author of "Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes", says that while the numbers today reflect an incremental improvement, middle-class and working-class Americans still feel insecure about their economic future. Half a century ago, the highest 5 percent of earners controlled just 17.2 percent of all income.

Asian-Americans reported the highest household incomes, at $81,431, which was little changed from 2015. Women now make 80.5 cents to every $1 earned by men, or an increase of 1.1 percent from 2015.

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