U.S. Median Income Stayed Flat in 2018; Poverty Rate Fell Slightly

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 11, 2019

The EPI estimates that Social Security kept 27.3 million people out of poverty in 2018, while food stamps kept 3.1 million above the supplemental poverty line.

One bright spot in the report was that the poverty rate fell for a fourth straight year to 11.8%, its lowest point since 2001.

USA household incomes barely rose during President Donald Trump's second year in office but the poverty rate fell to 11.8% last year from 12.3% in 2017, suggesting how Americans view their own prosperity could once again become a central issue in the US presidential election next year. That uptick was largely driven by a decline in public health coverage for low-income people, with Medicaid enrollment falling 0.7 percentage points to 17.9% in 2018.

The median household income was $63,179 previous year, statistically insignificant from the median of $62,626 in 2017.

The Census findings also echoed a trend highlighted in the August monthly jobs report, which found that more women are either working or looking for jobs, shrinking the gender gap in the labor participation rate to the lowest level on record.

More people were covered by Medicare, reflecting the aging of the baby boomers.

"The word has gone out if you use Medicaid, then you are a public charge and you're liable not to get a green card", said Sara Rosenbaum, a George Washington University health law and policy professor, who called the patterns of health coverage for immigrant children "alarm bell territory". The number of uninsured children also rose, and there were more uninsured adults ages 35-64.

The increase in uninsured Americans is striking partly because of the economy's expansion and increased payrolls.

Expanding insurance access was a main goal of the ACA, the statute forged by Democrats almost a decade ago that has reshaped much of the health care system.

As Trump works to dismantle the law and liberal Democratic candidates seek to replace it with a government-financed health-care system, both sides can find ammunition for their interpretation of why the nation's uninsured rate has started rising again. In a statement, the California Democrat asserted that Trump's ongoing efforts to erode Obama's law have forced Americans to "live in constant fear of an accident or injury that could spell financial ruin for their families". The president also slashed the program's sign-up season ad budget and scaled back funding to help people navigate the enrollment process.

Driving the increase, the first since 2009, was a decline in the share of people covered by Medicaid. Medicaid enrollment fell 0.7% a year ago, the Census said. Health insurance coverage expanded in Wyoming, South Carolina and NY.

The Trump administration has also rolled out some regulatory changes of its own meant to expand coverage. Outside those urban areas, in the rural and suburban regions where Trump's support is strongest, household income barely changed.

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