Census Bureau Releases New Poverty, Income Data

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new poverty and income data for 2015 that show an increase in median household income, a decrease in the official poverty rate, and a decline in the number of people without health insurance. As the bureau notes, “This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession.”

The real median household income of Hispanics rose 6.1 percent between 2014 and 2015, while non-Hispanic White households had a 4.4 percent increase and Black households saw a 4.1 percent increase. And though those increases weren’t statistically different, there’s still a huge gap in the incomes themselves. Non-Hispanic White households had a real median income of $62,950. For Black and Hispanic households, that figure is $36,898 and $45,148, respectively.

The gender wage gap experienced no statistically significant change, though it did nudge up from 79 cents to 80 cents – meaning there’s been no meaningful change for nine years. And it’s much worse for women of color. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women still only make 63 cents for every dollar paid to their White, non-Hispanic male counterparts. For Hispanic women, that figure is just 54 cents. Once again, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects that the United States won’t have pay equity until 2059.

On the poverty front, 9.1 percent of non-Hispanic Whites were in poverty, compared to 21.4 percent of Hispanics (down from 23.6 percent) and 24.1 percent of Blacks (down from 26.2 percent).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also observed that states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are falling further behind, and that the safety net cut poverty nearly in half last year – lifting 38 million people out of poverty.

“Federal policymakers should move forward as planned to implement a new rule making more salaried workers with moderate incomes eligible for overtime, and the President and Congress at long last should raise the federal minimum wage, which has lost considerable purchasing power,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget. “Policymakers also should further expand refundable tax credits for the working poor and expand access to child care for low-income families with children.”

While the Obama administration has taken a number of actions to help reduce poverty and inequality for federal workers, Congress continues to let legislation languish that would improve conditions for the entire nation’s workforce.