New Census report: Incomes up, poverty down in Minnesota
ST. PAUL—Following a national trend, Minnesota families in 2016 had more money in their pockets, were less likely to be poor and were more likely to have health insurance, data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show.
Yet those successes were not felt equally. Large gaps remain between the income, poverty and insurance rates of many Minnesotans of color and their white neighbors.
Minnesota's median household income rose 3.3 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $65,599, the census found. Asian and white households had the highest incomes, while Hispanic, American Indian and black families earned considerably less.
Black households did see a 10 percent increase in income over 2015 but still earned just $33,436, or roughly half of the state's median household income.
Much of that growth represents a recovery from 2014, when black household income plummeted to $27,015, raising alarms among community advocates and state leaders.
Patrice Bailey, outreach coordinator for the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, said the new census numbers are an indicator that some of the state's efforts to close racial disparities are having an impact. In recent years, state lawmakers have approved spending and policy changes aimed at providing equal opportunities for residents of color.
"We've got a ways to go," Bailey said. He noted that systemic changes in the state's schools, workforce development and housing systems are still needed if Minnesota is going to further close racial gaps.
Susan Brower, the state demographer, agreed that the state's racial disparities should be an important focus for policymakers. Brower said Minnesota's workforce is growing more diverse, and the state's future prosperity depends on all residents benefiting from economic growth.
"The disparities we have across races are large and they are persistent," Brower said. "What we've seen in the past few years have been modest, incremental changes. It is going to become increasingly important in coming years that we do something about these disparities."
Poverty rates are on the decline, but Minnesotans of color remain much more likely to be poor than whites.
About 30 percent of black and American Indian residents live below the poverty line, census data show. That's compared with 18 percent of Hispanics, 16 percent of Asians and 7 percent of white residents who have low incomes.
Nationally, 40 million people, or 12.7 percent of the population, lived in poverty in 2016, a slight decline from the year before. The median income for U.S. households grew by 3.2 percent, to $59,039.
More Americans have health insurance than ever before, the census found. Nationally, 8.8 percent of residents were uninsured, or about 28 million people.
Minnesota has considerably better access to health insurance than the national average. Just 4.1 percent of Minnesotans lacked health insurance in 2016, a slight decline from the year prior, the census found.
But residents of color, particularly those who are Hispanic and American Indian, were more likely not to have health insurance.
Nan Madden, executive director of the Minnesota Budget Project, a public policy research and advocacy group, said it was clear that policy decisions and tax breaks benefiting working Minnesotans are paying off.
But Madden cautioned that proposed changes to the federal budget and the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, put the state's recent successes at risk.
"It's a certainty that if some of the proposals in Washington were passed, we would take a giant step back," Madden said. "Not that everything is perfect now. There is much more work to do."