U.S. poverty rates, income measures improved in 2016

Median household income in the United States is up for the second consecutive year, rising to possibly the highest level ever recorded, according to new numbers released by the U.S. Census today.

The national poverty rate in 2016 was back to a pre-recession level for the first time with 12.7 percent of the population — 40.6 million people — living in poverty. That’s 2.5 million fewer than in 2015.

And the percentage of the population that is uninsured declined to 8.8 percent, down from 9.1 percent in 2015. States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have seen the greatest declines in uninsured individuals since 2013.

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The numbers come from two national census reports released today. The 2016 American Community Survey will be released later this week with more details on local income, poverty, health insurance, and population data.


Median household income in the U.S. in 2016 was $59,039, an increase in real terms of 3.2 percent from the 2015 median income of $57,230. It’s the second consecutive annual increase in median household income.

“This has been two consecutive years of strong income growth,” said Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief with the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase is mostly attributed, not to increasing wages, but to more people becoming part of the full-time workforce, she said.

“We saw a jump in the number of people working and the number of people working full time,” Renwick said.

The median income figure is higher than the pre-recession peak of $58,149 in 2007, however Renwick cautioned that the years cannot be accurately compared because the census changed the questions they ask on the annual survey in 2014. At that time, there was a jump of 3.2 percent in median income for those answering the new questions.

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The female-to-male earnings gap narrowed for the first time since to before the recession. In 2016, females earned 80.5 percent of what males did.

Health insurance

The percentage of people nationwide with health insurance coverage for all or part of 2016 was 91.2 percent.

Private health insurance continues to be most prevelant with 67.5 percent of the population insured through their employer or direct-purchase insurance.

Medicare was the only type of health insurance that saw statistically significant gains between 2015 and 2016, likely due to an increase in the number of people age 65 or older.

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In the 30 states and the District of Columbia where Medicaid was expanded beginning in 2014 the uninsured rate was significantly lower than states that did not expande the government program for low income and disabled individuals.

Expansion states had an uninsured rate of 6.5 percent in 2016 while non-expansion states had a rate of 11.7 percent.

Ohio’s uninsured rate was 5.6 percent in 2016, down from 6.5 percent the year before and 11 percent before Medicaid expansion.

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