Last month the U.S Census Bureau released a new report on the income and poverty in the United States, as well as information on other important health and income trends. Here’s what you need to know:

Safety nets

  • This new data shows that (with the exception of non-Hispanic white households) median household incomes were not statistically different from 2013. As a result, no progress was made in closing the black-white income gap between 2013 and 2014—the median black household has just 59 cents for every dollar of white median household income. The Hispanic-white income gap narrowed from 66 to 71 cents on the dollar. Weak income growth between 2013 and 2014 also leaves real median household incomes for all groups well below their 2007 levels. Between 2007 and 2014, median household incomes declined by 10.5 percent (-$4,137) for African Americans, 0.7 percent (-$294) for Latinos, 7.2 percent (-$4,662) for whites, and 8.8 percent (-$7,158) for Asians. ((New Census Data Show No Progress in Closing Stubborn Racial Income Gaps. A report from the Economic Policy Institute which provides a snapshot of the current economic issues affecting America’s largest racial groups.))

  • Income growth rates are not keeping up with the rising cost of housing—this gap disproportionately affects low-income households, which are more likely to rent, putting them at higher risk of homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding.(( New Census Data Show Rising Rents, Weak Income Growth. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the fact that incomes have not kept pace with rental costs.))

Rent Low, Housing High chart

  • The primary driving force behind the slow recovery of pre-recession income levels has been stagnant wage growth—there has been a lack of any real wage growth in the United States for the past decade. Stagnant wages, eroding labor standards, and growing inequality prevent the poverty rate from falling faster. ((Income Stagnation in 2014 Shows the Economy Is Not Working for Most Families. This report from the Economic Policy Institute illustrates the lack of any real wage growth in the United States for the past decade.)) ((3 Things You May Have Missed in the New Poverty, Income, and Inequality Data. This report from the Center for American Progress covers why the poverty rate isn’t falling faster and on the positive effects social insurance and social assistance have on poverty and inequality.))

  • In the United States, economic insecurity is a commonplace experience—and the population having this experience is not a stagnant group of people. Even though low-income young adults today are more educated than their counterparts a decade ago raising the minimum wage and enacting basic labor standards will be key steps toward combating growing inequality and ensuring that economic growth translates into sustained poverty reduction. ((3 Things You May Have Missed in the New Poverty, Income, and Inequality Data. This report from the Center for American Progress covers why the poverty rate isn’t falling faster and on the positive effects social insurance and social assistance have on poverty and inequality.))

Economic Insecurity remains high

  • Currently, the United States as a whole is trying to recover from the Great Recession and we are starting to make some progress—but this progress is too slow. The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that millions of people are lifted out of poverty by a variety of federal programs. In addition to Social Security, SNAP, low-income tax credits, and housing subsidies, programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), child nutrition programs, unemployment insurance, and home heating/cooling assistance are effective at lowering poverty rates. As effective as these programs are, their effectiveness is limited because of underfunding and proposed Congressional cuts threaten these programs further. ((Economic Growth Leaves the Poorest Americans Behind. A report from the Coalition on Human Needs highlighting the fact that cutting poverty in half will take a quarter century at our current rate. The second link also has shareable infographics and sample tweets.))

poverty-timeline projections

The above findings make it ever more important that policymakers work to ensure that measures taken to reduce poverty are funded and run effectively. Stay tuned to the WIRE for more about putting this census data to use in your organization!

If you want to dig deeper, here are links to the full reports.

You can also visit our Poverty Page for the latest poverty data for Illinois, Chicago, and other cities.