U.S. poverty level dropped in 2016

September 12, 2017 9:07am
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•  Census Bureau says official poverty rate decreased 0.8 percentage points

•  The 2016 poverty rate drops to about pre-Great Recession rate

Real median household income increased by 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, while the official poverty rate decreased 0.8 percentage points, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Median household income in the United States in 2016 was $59,039, an increase in real terms of 3.2 percent from the 2015 median income of $57,230. This is the second consecutive annual increase in median household income.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2016 was 12.7 percent, with 40.6 million people in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015. The 0.8 percentage point decrease from 2015 to 2016 represents the second consecutive annual decline in poverty.

The 2016 poverty rate is not statistically different from the 2007 rate (12.5 percent), the year before the Great Recession.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2016 calendar year was 8.8 percent, down from 9.1 percent in 2015, the Census Bureau says. The number of people without health insurance declined to 28.1 million from 29.0 million over the period.

Another Census Bureau report, the Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016, was also released Tuesday. The supplemental poverty rate in 2016 was 13.9 percent, a decrease from 14.5 percent in 2015. With support from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Supplemental Poverty Measure shows a different way of measuring poverty in the United States and serves as an additional indicator of economic well-being.

Real median incomes in 2016 for family households ($75,062) and non-family households ($35,761) increased 2.7 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, from their 2015 medians. This is the second consecutive annual increase in median household income for both types of households. The differences between the 2015 to 2016 percentage changes in median income for family and non-family households was not statistically significant.

Race and Hispanic Origin

(Race data refer to people reporting a single race only; Hispanics can be of any race.)

The real median income of non-Hispanic white ($65,041), black ($39,490), and Hispanic ($47,675) households increased 2.0 percent, 5.7 percent, and 4.3 percent, respectively, between 2015 and 2016, the Census Bureau says. This is the second annual increase in median household income for these households.

Among the race groups, Asian households had the highest median income in 2016 ($81,431). The 2015 to 2016 percentage change in their real median income was not statistically significant, the report says.

The differences between the 2015 to 2016 percentage changes in median income for non-Hispanic white, black, Hispanic, and Asian households were not statistically significant, as well.


• Households in the South and West experienced an increase in real median income of 3.9 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, between 2015 and 2016. The changes in incomes of households in the Northeast and Midwest were not statistically significant.

• Households with the highest median household incomes were in the Northeast ($64,390) and the West ($64,275), followed by the Midwest ($58,305) and the South ($53,861). The difference between the median household incomes for the Northeast and West was not statistically significant.

• The difference between the 2015 to 2016 percentage changes in median income for households in all regions were not statistically significant.


The 2016 real median earnings of men ($51,640) and women ($41,554) who worked full- time, year-round were not statistically different from their respective 2015 medians.

The female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.805, an increase of 1.1 percent from the 2015 ratio of 0.796. This is the first time the female-to-male earnings ratio has experienced an annual increase since 2007.

Between 2015 and 2016, the total number of people with earnings increased by about 1.2 million. In addition, the total number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.2 million between 2015 and 2016, suggesting a shift from part-year, part-time work status to full-time, year-round work status. The difference between the 2015 to 2016 increases in the number of men and women full-time, year-round workers was not statistically significant.

An estimated 74.8 percent of working men with earnings and 62.2 percent of working women with earnings worked full-time, year-round in 2016; both percentages were higher than the 2015 estimates of 73.9 percent and 61.3 percent, respectively.

Income Inequality

• The “Gini index” was 0.481 in 2016; the change from 2015 was not statistically significant. Developed more than a century ago, the Gini index is the most common measure of household income inequality used by economists, with 0.0 representing total income equality and 1.0 equivalent to total inequality.

• The share of aggregate household income in the fourth quintile decreased 1.3 percent between 2015 and 2016, while changes in the shares of other quintiles were not statistically significant.


--> The poverty rate for families in 2016 was 9.8 percent, representing 8.1 million families, a decline from 10.4 percent and 8.6 million families in 2015.

-->· For most demographic groups, the number of people in poverty decreased from 2015. Adults age 65 and older were the only major population group to see an increase in the number of people in poverty.

--> The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites was 8.8 percent in 2016 with 17.3 million individuals in poverty. Neither the poverty rate nor the number in poverty was statistically different from 2015. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 61.0 percent of the total population and 42.5 percent of the people in poverty.

-->· The poverty rate for blacks decreased to 22.0 percent in 2016, from 24.1 percent in 2015. The number of blacks in poverty decreased to 9.2 million, down from 10.0 million.

-->· The poverty rate for Hispanics decreased to 19.4 percent in 2016, down from 21.4 percent in 2015. The number of Hispanics in poverty decreased to 11.1 million, down from 12.1 million.

-->· Asians did not experience a statistically significant change in their poverty rates nor in the number of people in poverty between 2015 and 2016.

-->· In 2016, 18.0 percent of children under age 18 (13.3 million) were in poverty, down from 19.7 percent and 14.5 million in 2015. Children represented 23.0 percent of the total population and 32.6 percent of the people in poverty.

-->· In 2016, 11.6 percent of people ages 18 to 64 (22.8 million) were in poverty, down from 12.4 percent and 24.4 million in 2015.

-->· In 2016, 9.3 percent of people age 65 and older were in poverty, statistically unchanged from 2015. The number in poverty increased from 4.2 million to 4.6 million between 2015 and 2016.

→ In 2016, the poverty rate and the number in poverty decreased in the Northeast from 12.4 percent (6.9 million) in 2015 to 10.8 percent (6.0 million) and in the South from 15.3 percent (18.3 million) in 2015 to 14.1 percent (17.0 million). The Midwest and West did not experience a significant change in the poverty rate or the number in poverty between 2015 and 2016.

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