Census: US median income rose, poverty rate fell in 2016

James Sullivan

Census: US median income rose, poverty rate fell in 2016

The U.S. poverty rate fell for the second straight year in 2016 while median income rose to an all-time high of $59,000 as the economy made up ground lost during the 2007-2009 recession, federal government data released on Tuesday showed. The lack of meaningful raises has left many people feeling left behind economically, a sentiment that factored into the 2016 elections.

While the median income was the highest ever recorded in a Census Bureau chart that dates to 1967, bureau officials said long-term historical comparisons should not be drawn because of changes in 2014 to the income question in the bureau's Current Population Survey.

The Census data said it changed its income questions in 2014, which makes it hard to make comparisons before that year. Since 1967, however, incomes for those in the top five percent nearly doubled, while the median income has risen by less than one third.

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There are fewer people living in poverty, with 12.7 percent in 2016 compared to 13.5 percent in 2015. The South and the Western regions of the US saw the biggest income increases, while the Northeast and Midwest saw no statistically significant change at all.

Non-Hispanic, white households have a real median income of $65,041, while black households have a median of $39,490.

The poverty rate has returned to pre-recession levels. Hispanics saw their poverty rate fall to 19.4%, down from 21.4%.

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And, the share of those without health insurance dropped to 8.8%, down from 9.1% a year earlier.

There was a big difference in the uninsured rate between the 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and those that did not. This is the first time since the recession that the poverty rate isn't statistically different from the 2007 level of 12.5%, a sign of how the US economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Still, almost 41 million Americans remained in poverty in 2016. In the two years following the end of the Great Recession, median household income fell almost $2,000 to $50,054 in 2011.

"While these numbers reflect incremental improvement, they have not cancelled out peoples' experience with the most recent economic downturn".

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