Nassau and Suffolk counties saw a rise in median household incomes from 2015 to 2016, new U.S. Census Bureau data shows, furthering a trend of yearly increases that one noted demographer said is “ahead of the curve” compared with many other areas nationally.
Median household income in Nassau rose to $105,870 in 2016, up from $102,403 the year before. In Suffolk, the median rose to $92,933, from $89,488 in 2015.
Other highlights included:
- Those median incomes continue to keep Long Island’s counties in the top five statewide in the survey, which covered geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more — 39 of New York’s 62 counties.
- New York State’s median income of $62,909 ranked 15th in the nation, an increase from $61,311 in 2015. The nation’s median for 2016 was $59,039.
- The two counties’ poverty rates showed no significant change for the time period.
- The percentage of Long Islanders without health insurance coverage continued to drop between 2015 and 2016, falling to 4.2 percent in Nassau from 5.4 percent, and to 5.4 percent from 5.9 percent in Suffolk.
Before the Affordable Care Act took full effect in 2014, the percentage of Long Islanders without health insurance was far higher. In 2012, 8.8 percent of Nassau residents and 10.1 percent of Suffolk’s did not have coverage.
Nassau had the highest median income among the New York counties ranked in the bureau’s survey and was the only one with a median income above $100,000.
Suffolk placed third, behind Putnam County, where the median income was $96,992.
Over a five-year period, Nassau logged increases in income in every year since 2012, when it was $97,216. Suffolk showed increases and decreases in its median income during that time, but has posted gains since 2014, the bureau’s data show.
“That’s a good trend,” William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said of the successive years of income increases on Long Island. “In some ways, it’s ahead of the curve . . . in some communities, it’s just a one-year trend.”
Frey added, “We’re coming very slowly out of the recession.” The economic downturn officially ended in June 2009, but experts say its after-effects have lingered.
The census data showed the Island’s poverty rate, while far lower than the nation’s 12.7 percent and even most counties in New York, remained statistically unchanged between 2015 and 2016.
The 2016 poverty rate for Nassau was 5.9 percent and for Suffolk was 7.3 percent. Those rates were not statistically different from Nassau’s 5.8 percent and Suffolk’s 7.6 percent in 2015, the census said. Even over five years, the two counties’ poverty rates showed no statistically significant change.
That could mean, Frey said, that “with the median income going up, perhaps people on the lower end have not made as many gains. It may trickle down.”
But Rebecca Sanin, chief executive and president of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said she remains concerned about income disparity and the inadequacy of the federal government’s poverty threshold as it affects Long Island.
A family of two adults and two children, for example, is categorized as living in poverty if its income was less than $24,339 in 2016. The poverty threshold is not adjusted for regional cost differences.
“Using the same type of metric for Mississippi that you use for Long Island, you’re clearly not reflecting the cost of living on Long Island,” Sanin said. As a result, “You’re not capturing the significant amount of people in poverty.”
“Inequality remains high and racial disparities remain,” Sanin said. She said she fears immigrants, in the face of political controversy over their fate, will “retreat into the shadows.”
Nassau and Suffolk: By the numbers
Median household income
2016: 5.9 percent
2015: 5.8 percent
2016: 7.3 percent
2015: 7.6 percent
People without health insurance
2016: 4.2 percent
2015: 5.4 percent
2016: 5.4 percent
2015: 5.9 percent
Source: U.S. Census Bureau