In its annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage released Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau had some good news for poor and middle income families. The data show the first significant gains since the Great Recession ended more than seven years ago. Real—that is, inflation-adjusted—median household income rose by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 for the first time since 2007, before the recession began. The official poverty rate fell 1.2 percentage points. And the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.
The inflation-adjusted 12-month increase of $2,800 brought the median household income to $56,500. That put median household incomes around 1.6 percent under the 2007 level, before the last recession got underway. The data are contained in two reports—Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015:
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, with 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015 represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999.
The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2015 calendar year was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of people without health insurance declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million over the period. [...]
The real median income of Hispanic households increased by 6.1 percent between 2014 and 2015. Non-Hispanic white and black households also saw increases of 4.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. While Asian households had the highest median income in 2015, the percentage change in their real median income was not statistically significant between 2014 and 2015. The differences between the 2014 to 2015 percentage changes in median income for non-Hispanic white, black and Hispanic households were not statistically different. [...]
The poverty rate for families and the number of families in poverty were 10.4 percent and 8.6 million in 2015, a decrease from 11.6 percent and 9.5 million families in 2014. [...]
Gender differences in poverty rates were more pronounced for those ages 18 to 64. The poverty rate for women ages 18 to 64 was 14.2 percent while the poverty rate for men ages 18 to 64 was 10.5 percent.
There was not, however, the bureau said, a significant change in income inequality.
While real median household incomes have not yet risen above the 2007 level, the increases announced today are good news for America’s lower economic quintiles and bad news for Republican politicians who keep trying to turn voters off to Hillary Clinton by saying she will just be “Obama’s third term.”
Since he came into office just as hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs every month (along with their homes, their savings, their chances for higher education, et cetera), Republicans have done just about everything they could to obstruct improvement in the economy. And in many ways they were successful.
Even though millions of private-sector jobs were created after the unemployment rate hit 10 percent (and the unemployment and underemployment hit 17.6 percent) in October 2009, inflation-adjusted income fell and then rose at a barely perceptible pace. Had Republicans worked together with the administration at repairing the damaged economy over the past eight years, today’s figures would almost certainly have been considerably higher.
Given Clinton’s proposal for infrastructure spending of $275 billion a year over five years, which will boost job creation and thus put upward pressure on wages, the idea of an “Obama third term,” economically speaking, should do the opposite of encouraging a vote for Donald Trump. He is, after all, the guy who has made idiotic claims such as the actual unemployment rate being 42 percent and offers absolutely nothing helpful to Americans who are still struggling economically except phony populist rhetoric without actual populist programs.