The middle class gets a big raise … finally!
It’s about time.
After years of watching their incomes go nowhere, America’s middle class finally got a big raise last year.
Median household income rose to $56,516 in 2015, up 5.2% from a year earlier, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday. It marks the first increase in median income since 2007, the year before the Great Recession started.
The data is sure to become a talking point in the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump has repeatedly hammered home that income is $4,000 lower than it was in 2000. (That’s true if you are comparing it to 2014 data, which had been the most recent available. But Trump often referenced it as current figures, which makes it false.)
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, will likely use the uptick to show that the economy is recovering.
Poverty: Median income was not the only bright spot in the Census release. The poverty rate ticked down to 13.5% in 2015, from 14.8% a year earlier. Some 43.1 million Americans were in poverty, 3.5 million less than in 2014.
Trump also references the poverty rate to show that Americans have suffered under President Obama. The rate was at 12.5% in 2007, before the Great Recession hit. It jumped to 15.1% in 2010 and has slowly drifted downward since.
The Census Bureau also released an alternate poverty measure that takes into account various government benefits and expenses not captured by the official poverty rate. The so-called Supplemental Poverty Measure showed 14.3% of Americans were in poverty in 2015, compared to 15.3% a year earlier.
The supplemental measure showed that non-cash public assistance, such as food stamps, housing vouchers and refundable tax credits, helped lift many Americans out of poverty. However, it also takes into account work-related costs such as transportation and child care, as well as medical and tax expenses, which all together drove more people into poverty.
Health insurance: The uninsured rate fell to 9.1% in 2015, according to the Census Bureau. That’s down from 10.4% the year before, when the Obamacare exchanges and Medicaid expansion began. Some 29 million were without insurance last year, compared to 33 million in 2014.
The uninsured rate has dropped as millions of Americans gained coverage under Obamacare.
More recent government data found that the uninsured rate fell to 8.6% in the first quarter of this year. Some 27.3 million people lacked health coverage, according to the National Health Interview Survey, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.