Census Data Show Inequality, Racial Disparities Persist
September 18, 2015 - Posted by Patrick McNeil
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new poverty and income data for 2014 that show no statistically significant movement from 2013 figures. It’s the fourth year in a row that the official poverty rate, and the third year in a row that median household income, has not significantly changed.
Though income isn’t growing overall, the richest Americans did see an increase. The richest 10 percent of Americans saw their income increase from $150,000 to $157,500, while the poorest 10 percent actually saw their income decrease from $12,400 to $12,300.
Another report released this week shows that the number of uninsured Americans dropped from 41.8 million to 33.0 million over the same period of time. And while minorities were more likely to gain health insurance than Whites, a race gap in coverage remains.
A race gap also persists in median household income. While White households made just over $60,000 in 2014, Hispanic households made about $42,000 and Black households made just $35,000. And when it comes to measuring poverty, only one in 10 White people was below the poverty line in 2014. For Blacks, it was more than one in four.
The gender wage gap also experienced no statistically significant change, though it did nudge up from 78 cents to 79 cents. Still, there’s been no meaningful change in the figure for seven years, and it continues to be much worse for women of color. According to a projection from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the United States won’t have pay equity until 2059.
And yet, proposed Republican budgets would make deep cuts to programs like SNAP and Medicaid, which are instrumental in helping to cut poverty and economic inequality. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that “without the safety net, the picture would have been much worse.” Additionally, some provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are scheduled to expire in 2017. If Congress fails to act, 16 million more Americans could be pushed into poverty.
While the Obama administration has taken a number of actions to help reduce poverty and inequality for federal workers, Congress continues to let legislation languish that would improve conditions for the entire country – bills that would, for example, raise the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour and assist in narrowing the gender wage gap.