Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016

  • Median U.S. household income up for 2nd straight year, By Binyamin Appelbaum, September 12, 2017, New York Times: “Despite eight years of economic growth since a brutal recession, some politicians and economists have worried that many Americans have not felt the benefits of the expansion. On Tuesday, the Census Bureau painted a brighter picture, suggesting that the recovery had shifted into a new phase in recent years and is now distributing its benefits more broadly…”
  • Median household income hits $59,039, rising for 2nd straight year, By Paul Davidson, September 13, 2017, USA Today: “Americans notched solid financial gains in 2016 for a second straight year as household incomes rose, poverty fell and fewer people went without health insurance, signaling an end to the stagnation that had lingered since the Great Recession…”
  • American household income finally topped 1999 peak last year, By Christopher Rugaber (AP), September 12, 2017, Washington Post: “In a stark reminder of the damage done by the Great Recession and of the modest recovery that followed, the median American household only last year finally earned more than it did in 1999…”
  • American households finally earn more than they did in 1999, By Don Lee, September 12, 2107, Los Angeles Times: “After a long period of plodding economic growth, significant earnings gains over the last two years have finally enabled the average American household to surpass the peak income level it reached in 1999. The median household income in the U.S. climbed to $59,039 last year, up 3.2% from 2015 after adjusting for inflation, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday…”
  • Census Bureau: Median incomes rose and poverty levels fell In 2016, By Merrit Kennedy, September 12, 2017, National Public Radio: “There’s good news on three primary U.S. economic benchmarks: the poverty rate, income level and number of people covered by health insurance. New figures released by the Census Bureau Tuesday show median household income in 2016 was $59,039 — more than 3 percent higher than in 2015…”
  • New Census data shows more Americans emerging from poverty, By Alana Semuels, September 12, 2017, The Atlantic: “Eight years after the end of the Great Recession, more of America’s poorest families are beginning to emerge from poverty, suggesting that the effects of a booming job market and an expanded safety net may finally be helping the country’s most vulnerable residents. Census data released today show that the number of people living in poverty has finally returned to pre-recession levels, with poverty declining for all ethnic groups…”

Elite Colleges and Low-Income Students

High-achieving, low-income students: Where elite colleges are falling short, By Elissa Nadworny, August 17, 2107, National Public Radio: “When Anna Neuman was applying to college, there weren’t a lot of people around to help her. Students from her high school in Maryland rarely went on to competitive colleges, the school counselor worked at several different schools and was hard to pin down for meetings and neither of her parents had been through the application process before…”

Low-Income Employment

After years of stagnation, low-income jobs join the recovery, By Story Hinckley, August 4, 2017, Christian Science Monitor: “What do waitresses in California, security guards in Tennessee, and hairstylists in Virginia have in common? All of these employees are starting to get bigger paychecks, economists say. The Great Recession of 2008 triggered a double-digit spike in the US unemployment rate, which led to lower wages as employers were not obligated to offer competitive salaries. The national unemployment rate has decreased every year since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), causing most paychecks to rise. Low-income workers, however, missed out…”

Guaranteed Basic Income

How to fix poverty: Why not just give people money?, By Nurith Aizenman, August 7, 2017, National Public Radio: “Young guys in dusty polo shirts. New moms holding their babies. Grandmas in bright head wraps. They’ve all gathered in a clearing for one of the village meetings when something remarkable happens. Practically every person’s cellphone starts tinkling. It’s a text alert from an American charity called GiveDirectly. Last fall, GiveDirectly announced that it will give every adult in this impoverished village in Kenya an extra $22 each month for the next 12 years — with no strings attached…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

How Detroit factory workers get charged more than lawyers for auto insurance, By Chad Livengood, August 2, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “It costs more for the undereducated working poor or unemployed who rent homes to buy auto insurance in Michigan than homeowners with white collar careers living and driving in the same city. That’s the charge from a new study by a California insurance researcher who has examined the impact on quotes insurers give Michigan motorists based on their job title, level of education and whether they rent or own a home — factors that have nothing to do with whether they’re safe drivers…”

Income-Based Water Bills – Philadelphia, PA

For low-income residents, Philadelphia unveiling income-based water bills, By Tricia L. Nadolny, June 19, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “The Philadelphia Water Department next month will launch a low-income assistance program that offers payments starting at $12 per month and is open even to those who haven’t fallen behind on their bills. For those who have, that debt would be frozen indefinitely…”

Bail System – Illinois

Rauner signs law to change rules for paying cash to get out of jail, By Kim Geiger, June 9, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Low-level offenders who have been arrested and can’t come up with enough money to get out of jail can get a rehearing of their bail amount, under a plan signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner…”

Affordable Housing

Here’s how much you would need to afford rent in your state, By Tracy Jan, June 8, 2017, Washington Post: “There is nowhere in this country where someone working a full-time minimum wage job could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment, according to an annual report released Thursday documenting the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing. Downsizing to a one-bedroom will only get you so far on minimum wage. Such housing is affordable in only 12 counties located in Arizona, Oregon and Washington states, according to the report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition…”

Rich/Poor Health Disparities

U.S. one of world’s worst on health divide between rich, poor, By Sarah Toy, June 7, 2017, USA Today: “The U.S. has one of the world’s largest health disparities between the rich and poor — behind only Chile and Portugal — and its healthcare system and lack of social supports are to blame, experts say. Researchers examining surveys on health and income from people in 32 countries found poor Americans reported worse health than rich U.S. residents in significant numbers…”

Basic-Income Program – Ontario, CA

4,000 Canadian families will soon get paid by Ontario for doing nothing, By Alan Freeman, April 27, 2017, Washington Post: “The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is joining the basic-income bandwagon with the launch of a three-year pilot program that will test how paying people an unconditional basic wage works in practice…”

Working Households and Basic Needs – Michigan

Report: Michigan makes little progress in lifting working poor to financial stability, By Lindsay VanHulle, April 4, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “To make ends meet as a four-person family in Michigan, with a child in preschool and a baby at home, it’s practically mandatory that both parents work full time and make at least $14 per hour each. A single breadwinner in that same family would have to make at least $28 per hour. And that’s just to afford basic living needs, like housing, child care, transportation and medical bills. Yet Michigan’s job market is disproportionately made up of low-wage jobs — 62 percent of the state’s jobs in 2015 paid less than $20 per hour, according to new research on the state’s working poor to be released Tuesday by the Michigan Association of United Ways…”

State Minimum Wage – Pennsylvania

Pa. minimum wage hike a possibility, By Marc Levy (AP), February 20, 2017, York Dispatch: “Years of pressure by Pennsylvania Democrats could yield a state minimum wage increase this year, although it likely will require substantial concessions in the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing hiking the hourly minimum from $7.25 to $12. That would be the nation’s highest…”

Earnings Gap by Education Level

Pay gap between college grads and everyone else at a record, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), January 12, 2017, Star Tribune: “Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.  The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground…”

Low-Income Tax Refunds

IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income families, January 11, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “The IRS is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families this year as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud.  The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both…”

Basic Income – Finland

Finland trials basic income for unemployed, By Jon Henley, January 3, 2017, The Guardian: “Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.  Under the two-year, nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January, 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will receive a guaranteed sum of €560 (£475). The income will replace their existing social benefits and will be paid even if they find work…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

A higher minimum wage in 2017, By Karl Russell, January 5, 2017, New York Times: “With the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unchanged since 2009, many states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the statewide minimum wage. While a higher floor for pay is a powerful tool for improving the lot of the least-skilled workers, some economists worry it could result in slower job creation or cuts as employers confront higher labor costs…”

Social Security and Student Loan Debt

The disturbing trend of people losing Social Security benefits to student debt, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, December 20, 2016, Washington Post: “To recoup student-loan debt, the government is leaving people who rely on Social Security with benefits that fall below federal poverty guidelines, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday.  The number of older Americans defaulting on education loans has steadily increased in recent decades, as many have returned to college or co-signed loans for family members. Unpaid debt has resulted in the government garnishing the benefits of 114,000 people age 50 and older in the past year, more than half of whom were receiving Social Security disability rather than retirement income, the GAO report said…”

American Community Survey

  • Poverty grows in swaths of suburbs, By Christine MacDonald and Mike Martindale, December 8, 2016, Detroit News: “Poverty is growing and incomes are down in pockets of suburban Metro Detroit, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday, but in most of the area’s small cities those numbers have remained stagnant.  Nearly a quarter of Metro Detroit’s smaller communities saw median household income decline and 20 percent saw the poverty rate grow, according to an analysis of census data by The Detroit News. The remaining communities saw no gains or losses and only a handful saw improvements, when comparing two five-year periods, 2006-10 and 2011-15…”
  • Census: Economic data paints two different portraits of Utah, By Daphne Chen, December 7, 2016, Deseret News: “In the remote red mesas of this southeastern corner of Utah, Charlie DeLorme counts the jobs by the single digits.  There’s the Latigo wind farm that started operations last March, creating six new full-time positions.  There’s the Desert Rose Inn in Bluff, which added 10 jobs after a luxury expansion…”
  • Census Bureau surveys highlight growing differences between rural, urban living, By Alan Johnson, December 9, 2016, Columbus Dispatch: “If you live in rural Ohio, you’re more likely than city dwellers to own your home, be a military veteran and be married, the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.  On the other hand, urban residents’ homes are worth more, and they are more likely to have a college degree and internet access. Rural residents, on average, are slightly older and less likely to be in poverty…”