Census Data Shows Poverty Down in the U.S. and Large Income Disparities

On Thursday, September 26, the U.S. Census Bureau’s released the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) detailing information on American social and economic measures such as jobs and occupations, educational attainment, and other topics.

The nation’s Gini index, which measures income inequality, grew from 0.482 in 2017 to 0.485 last year, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Gini Index is on a scale of 0 to 1; a score of “0” indicates perfect equality, while a score of “1” indicates perfect inequality, where one household has all the income. This measure indicates that the income gap in the U.S. is on the rise. Household incomes in the U.S. increased 0.8 percent between 2017 and 2018, with a median income of $61,937. Although there was an income increase in 2018, it was distributed unevenly.

Income inequality last year was largely on the rise in Washington, D.C., New York and Connecticut topping the list, and Puerto Rico and Louisiana with great poverty. States with the most economic equality were Utah, Alaska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In addition, income increased for all households across all major race and Hispanic origin groups with a median household income of $87,243 for Asian households, a 2.1 percent increase, to $41,511 for black households, a 1.5 percent increase. Hispanic households increased by 1.5 percent to $51,404 and an increased by 1 percent to $67,937 in non-Hispanic white households.

For the fifth consecutive annual year, the national poverty rate has declined with 13.1 percent of Americans having income below the poverty line, in 2018 but disparities still persist. The poverty rate declined in 14 states and Puerto Rico with the exception of Connecticut, which the rate increased from 9.6 percent to 10.4 percent. New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate at 7.6 percent with Mississippi having the highest at 19.7 percent. States with poverty rates above the national average, or 16 percent or higher, displayed in Figure 2 included Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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