US Family Incomes Up, Poverty Down

Census Bureau

Census Bureau

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 income growth, however, likely stems from more people returning to work and more moving up to full-time jobs, as opposed to workers getting significant raises, said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Among the many ethnic groups in the United States, Asians have the highest median family incomes, little changed from prior years ($81,431). But Census officials cautioned against comparing the figures because the bureau has changed its methodology over the years.

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

American families are finally getting a break nearly 10 years after the Great Recession decimated household income and eroded personal wealth. The number of people living below the poverty line dropped 2.5 million to 40.6 million.

Median household income rose 3.2 percent from $57,200 a year earlier, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. State and county figures on income and poverty, as well as health insurance coverage for areas with populations of 65,000 or more, are to be released Thursday.

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That's only the "official" poverty rate, though, which only takes into account before-tax income. Expansion states had an average uninsured rate of 6.5%, while the average rate in non-expansion states was 11.7%.

And the proportion of Americans without health insurance declined to 8.8 percent, the report showed, down from 9.1 percent.

"Real median household income has finally completed its nine-year slog of digging out of the ditch", IHS Markit Executive Director Chris Christopher said, with more gains expected in 2017 and 2018. The rest had Medicare, Medicaid or military coverage.

At the same time, the agency said last year's official USA poverty rate was about where it was before the recent US recession. Still, almost 41 million Americans remained in poverty in 2016.

But medical expenses increased the number of people in poverty by 10.5 million.

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