Census Bureau: US household income up 3.2%; poverty rate dips in Northeast

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Median household income rose 3.2 percent to $59,039 last year, marking the second consecutive year of income gains since the economic crisis, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday. Black families saw their median income climb 5.7% in 2016 to $39,500, while Hispanic households had a 4.3% increase to $47,675. And the Washington Post reports last year's median household income was the highest on record-beating out the previous high set in 1999. But Census officials cautioned against comparing the figures because the bureau has changed its methodology over the years. That puts income just 1.6 percent below what households earned before the recession started in late 2007, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.

It also was the first year since the recession that the poverty rate was no statistically different than it was before the crash in 2007.

The poverty rate in 2016 ticked down by 0.8 percentage point to 12.7 percent.

Family households have a real median income of $75,062, and non-family households bring in $35,761.

The income gains were fairly broad.

Sheldon Danziger, head of the Russell Sage Foundation poverty research group, said "expanding the earned income tax credit. and more spending on badly needed infrastructure and early childhood education" would lift employment and productivity.

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The Census Bureau also released its Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account government assistance and certain expenses not factored into the official poverty rate.

Still, the Census data is closely watched because of its comprehensive nature.

"The decline in the unisured is clearly the effect of the Affordable Care Act, and this is particularly pronounced in states that expanded Medicaid coverage", said John Rizzo, the Long Island Association's chief economist and a professor of health economics at Stony Brook University.

Some 28.1 million people lacked health insurance in 2016, down from 41.8 million in 2013. Some 40.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2016, down from from 43.1 million in 2015. Basically, the good news from last year's income report, which was the first really positive sign in almost a decade, may be turning into a trend.

Asian-Americans reported the highest household incomes, at $81,431, which was little changed from 2015. Women earned 80.5 percent of men's earnings, up from 79.6 percent in 2015.

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