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U.S. median income rose in 2017 for third straight year, Census Bureau says

The U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday released national

The U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday released national 2017 data on median household income, poverty and health insurance coverage. Credit: US Census Bureau

The national household median income rose for the third consecutive year in 2017, reaching nearly $61,400 and essentially tying the record for highest median income set in 1999 and 2007 when adjusted for changes in the survey, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.

The bureau also said that the nation's poverty rate declined slightly in 2017, by a 0.4 percentage point to 12.3 percent, representing 39.7 million people. It was the third year in a row the poverty rate declined, the bureau said. Since 2014, the rate has dropped 2.5 percentage points.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage nationwide in 2017 — 8.8 percent, or 28.5 million — was not statistically different from 2016, according to the bureau. The percentage of people who were uninsured increased in 14 states and decreased in three states, the bureau noted.

The median income, the mark at which half the people earn more and half earn less, was $61,372 in 2017, a 1.8 percent increase from 2016.

While the 2017 median income tied the previous highs, it was "not statistically different from 2007 or the highest median in 1999," Trudi Renwick, the bureau's assistant division chief of economic characteristics, said during a news conference. Changes in the survey's income questions in 2013 led to a nearly 3.2 percent increase in median household income, she said.

A fact sheet from the bureau further explained that "one way to make the numbers before 2013 comparable is to increase them by 3.17 percent. Doing this would increase median incomes to $61,966 for 1999 and $61,421 for 2007."

According to the survey, 2017 real median earnings for male workers rose 3 percent from 2016 to $44,000, while female workers saw no statistical change between 2016 and 2017. Female workers' median earnings were $31,600.

Rebecca Sanin, chief executive and president of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said, "I think that while the economy has improved, it has not improved equitably. And so we certainly have on Long Island a working poor that is very significant. Folks are working multiple jobs because of the high cost of living in our region."

Sanin said that while the 2017 median income tied with that of 1999, "we know the cost of living has increased and inflation has increased in that time period."

To meet the federal government's definition of poverty, a family of two adults and two children would have to earn only $24,858 annually, a figure that many local observers have long noted is far below what is considered sufficient for most families on Long Island.

Sanin, citing a United Way of Long Island report, said a "survival budget" for a family of four is $80,940 in Nassau County "and 31 percent of folks live below that in Nassau County." She said the "survival budget" in Suffolk is $90,324, and 39 percent of households come in below that figure.

Looking at the national poverty rate, Sanin highlighted the differences in the poverty rate between non-Hispanic whites, which was 8.7 percent, and blacks, which was 21.2 percent.

"That's pretty stark," she said.

National measures of 2017

Median household Income


Poverty rate

12.3 percent, or 39.7 million people

Percent without health insurance

8.8 percent, or 28.5 million people

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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