U.S. Census Has Good News About Income and Poverty

Finally, some very, very good news: The U.S. Census released data that shows broad, big gains in household incomes.

2 minute read

September 15, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Wall Street

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The U.S. Census released new income and poverty data this week from the Current Population Survey, making news on many mainstream and planning-related news sites.

Vox, for instance, put out a spate of articles. One by Timothy B. Lee focuses on the disparity in the data for rural areas compared to urban areas. Here, he summarizes the geographic split apparent in the data:

In short, this is proving to be a fundamentally urban economic recovery. Cities are gaining income faster than their suburbs, which in turn are doing better than rural areas. And while suburban households still earn more, on average, than urban households, city-dwellers are closing the gap.

Another Vox article, by Dylan Matthews, frames the data in terms of class. According to Matthews, "the combination of fast income growth at the bottom and slower growth at the top meant that income inequality fell meaningfully between 2014 and 2015. It’s not enough to reverse the huge upward trend in inequality from the 1970s to the present, but it’s progress…"

Writing for CityLab, Kriston Capps begins by proclaiming that the data represents "unambiguously good news." Capps seizes on the three indicators of well-being reported in the Current Population Survey:

In 2015, the official poverty rate fell 1.2 percent. The percentage of people without health insurance decreased as well, reaching an all-time low of 9.1 percent. And to complete the trifecta, real median household income increased by 5.2 percent. If these indicators were colors, they’d be red, white, and blue.

Capps, however, is willing to express caution, in the form of the still-expensive housing market and a reminder that even all this good news has a ways to go to overcome the negative effects of the Great Recession.

For an institutional take on the new data, Jason Furman, Sandra Black, and Matt Fielder summarize six key points from the report for a post on the WhiteHouse.gov blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 in Vox

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