Census: Poverty rate, median income in 2012 held steady
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The nation's poverty rate and median household income in 2012 remained basically unchanged from the previous year, while the percentage of people without health insurance continued to decline, largely due to more receiving government medical coverage, a U.S. Census Bureau report issued Tuesday said.
The nation's poverty rate in 2012 was 15 percent, the same as in 2011, said David S. Johnson, chief of the bureau's Social, Economic and Housing Division.
The number of people living at or below the poverty line -- $23,283 for a family of two adults and two children -- was estimated at 46.5 million in 2012. The number in poverty was 46.2 million in 2011.
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The 2012 median household income for the nation was $51,017, not significantly different from the 2011 median of $51,100. However, the 2012 median income was 8.3 percent less than in 2007, the year before the recession started, Johnson said.
The percentage of people without health insurance declined to 15.4 percent in 2012 from 15.7 in 2011. The number of people without health insurance was estimated at 48 million in 2012, which officials said was not statistically different from the 48.6 million without it in 2011.
The data showed stark differences in the poverty, income and health insurance rates when broken out by race and Hispanic origin.
The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites in 2012 was lowest, at 9.7 percent. Blacks and Hispanics had the highest poverty rates, at 27.2 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively. The rate for Asians was 11.7 percent.
Asians had the highest median household income in 2012, at $68,600, followed by non-Hispanic whites, at $57,000; Hispanics, at $39,000; and blacks, at $33,000.
Hispanics had the highest uninsured rate in 2012, at 29.1 percent, followed by blacks, at 19 percent; Asians, at 15.1 percent; and non-Hispanic whites, at 11.1 percent.
Local and national experts raised concerns about income inequality.
"It seems to me like there's been an overall modest recovery, but it's not being shared equally," said John Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, noting "higher-income groups faring better."
Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public-policy research organization and think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in a statement: "The recession may be over, but try to tell that to these struggling families. Don't expect things to change until the American economy begins to generate more jobs."
And Sheldon Danzinger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City, which conducts social science research, said poverty would fall substantially in the next five years only if two things occur -- a decline in unemployment, and government policies that "do more to help those among the poor and near-poor who have been left behind by economic growth in recent decades."