Census Bureau Report Mixed (at Best)

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty, income, and health insurance today.  It is a comprehensive analysis of the financial status of Americans. The news is mixed at best.  Some highlights follow.

  • The real median household income in 2011 was $50,054, a 1.5 percent decline from 2010, an 8.1 percent drop from 2007 (the pre-recession peak) and an 8.9 percent drop from 1999 (the all-time peak).  The West has experienced the greatest decline by region.
  • Income inequality increased again in 2011, this time by1.6 percent from 2010.  The top 20 percent saw their income share rise 1.6 percent to 51.1 percent and the income share for the top 5 percent rose 4.9 percent to 22.3 percent of the national total. The middle (the group between the 40th and the 80th percentiles) saw its share of national income drop from 38 percent to 37.3 percent.
  • The poverty rate remains at 11.8 percent, meaning that 9.5 million people are living in poverty (the equivalent of a family of four with an annual income of $23,021 or less).  Moreover, this level is still worse than in all but two years since the mid-1960s.  Fully 6.2 percent of married-couple families, 31.2 percent of families with a female householder and 16.1 percent of families with a male householder lived in poverty in 2011.
  • 13.7 percent of people 18 to 64 (26.5 million) lived in poverty in 2011 compared with 8.7 percent of people 65 and older (3.6 million) and 21.9 percent of children under 18 (16.1 million).
  • In 2011, the median earnings of women who worked full-time, year-round ($37,118) was 77 percent of that for men working full-time, year-round ($48,202) ─ not statistically different from the 2010 ratio.
  • 15.7 percent of people did not have health insurance in 2011, but that’s down from 16.3 percent in 2010. The proportion of people with private health insurance did not go down (it’s 63.9 percent). 
  • The number of “shared households,” (households with at least one adult who isn’t in school or one of two other adults) has risen by 2.6 million from 19.7 million in 2007 to 22.3 million, an increase of 13.2 percent. These households are now 18.4 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 2007.

Overall, this can’t be seen as good news.

Next week, the Census Bureau will release single-year estimates for 2011 of median household income, poverty and health insurance coverage for all states and counties, places and other geographic units with populations of 65,000 or more from the American Community Survey (ACS), along with estimates for numerous social, economic and housing characteristics including language, education, the commute to work, employment, mortgage status and rent.


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