A U.S. Census Bureau report released Sept. 13 that shows increases in income, and decreases in the rates of poverty and the number of uninsured Americans is good news for the Obama administration in the twilight of its White House tenure, economists and political observers said.
“By so many measures, America is stronger and more prosperous than when we started out on this journey together… this is a big deal,” President Obama said while on the stump for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on Sept. 13. He added, “The steps that we have been taking over these years, they’re paying off. We’ve shown that progress is possible.”
According to the Census, median household income in the U.S. rose for the first time since the 2007 recession from $53,718 2014 to $56,516, an increase of 5.2 percent, and that increase took place at all income levels. Preliminary figures from 2016 also show that the upward trajectory seems to be continuing, according to the White House.
In 2015, there were also 3.5 million fewer Americans in poverty (13.5 percent of the population or 43.1 million people now live below the poverty line). The 1.2 percentage point decrease is the largest annual drop in poverty since 1999, the Bureau reported.
The overall trends were reflected among different demographic groups, with all racial and ethnic groups experiencing growth in income and decreases in poverty. Among Blacks, specifically, both the rate and number of those in poverty in 2015 decreased to 24.1 percent and 10.0 million from 26.2 percent and 10.8 million in 2014. And, real median income in African-American households rose by 4.1 percent.
According to Jason Furman, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and his colleagues, the decrease in poverty can be partly attributed to policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which, in 2015, lifted 9.2 million Americans, including 4.8 million children out of poverty.
“Obamacare,” another White House policy that is much maligned in some quarters, also seemed to have a positive effect. According to the Census, due to an increase in the rates of both private and government health insurance coverage, the rate of uninsured Americans decreased between 2014 and 2015 by 1.3 percentage points. In 2015, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage was 9.1 percent, or 29 million, a drop from 10.4 percent or 33.0 million uninsured persons in 2014.