WASHINGTON (UPI) — The poverty level declined in the United States last year as median household income and the number of people employed increased, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday.
The nation’s official poverty level is at 13.5 percent — 43.1 million people — which is 3.5 million fewer than in 2014, according to the Census Bureau. The 1.2 percentage point decline is the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999. Before the Great Recession, the poverty rate was 12.3 percent. The 40-year low of 11.3 percent was in 2000.
The Census Bureau records families as poor if they are living in households below the poverty line, which was about $24,000 for a family of four. The bureau’s poverty measure does not count non-cash income such as food-stamp benefits and tax credits.
The median income in the United States rose to $56,516, an increase adjusting for inflation of 5.2 percent from 2014. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the Great Recession. Real median incomes in 2015 for family households were $72,165 and single-member households at $33,805.
The percentage of people without health insurance coverage was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of uninsured people declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million as more people signed up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“Today’s report from the Census Bureau shows the remarkable progress that American families have made as the recovery continues to strengthen,” according to a statement from the White House by Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Sandra Black, member of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Matt Fielder, chief economist of the Council of Economic Advisers.
“Solid employment growth and robust real wage growth so far this year suggest that incomes are continuing to rise in 2016, and, building on the progress shown in today’s census report, the president will continue to call on Congress to take steps to invest in job creation, wage growth and equal pay for equal work.”
All racial and ethnic groups’ household incomes increased and poverty decreased in 2015. Hispanic Americans saw the largest gains in median income (6.1 percent), and the biggest decreases in poverty were black Americans (2.1 percent) and Hispanic Americans (2.2 percent).
In 2015, those living in poverty were 5.4 percent of married-couple families, 28.2 percent of families with a female householder and 14.9 percent of families with a male householder.
In terms of income, the median earnings of women who worked full-time, year-round ($40,742) was 80.0 percent of that for men working in the same conditions ($51,212), about the same as the 2014 ratio.
Those working full-time, year-round increased by 1.4 million for men and 1.0 million for women.