Median household income in the United States was up for the second consecutive year in 2016, but pockets of the Miami Valley region lag behind, according to new numbers released by the U.S. Census this week
Median household income in the U.S. in 2016 was $59,039, an increase in real terms of 3.2 percent from the 2015 median income . It’s the second consecutive annual increase in median household income. Experts said the report shows American households have made significant economic progress in 2015 and 2016 and are finally seeing real progress in recovering from the Great Recession.
Locally, gains were more modest and median household income decreased in Warren and Clark counties and the city of Dayton according to the American Community Survey numbers. But most local shifts were within the margin of error of the estimates.
Dayton’s median household income dropped to $28,894 from $30,135 in 2015. The 2016 figure ranks Dayton fifth out of the state’s six largest cities for median household income, ahead of only Cleveland.
It’s still an improvement from 2011 when Dayton’s median household income dipped to $25,434.
Butler and Miami counties saw income gains locally, climbing to median household incomes of $63,273 and $60,170 respectively.
The census data shows poverty rates fell in the Northeast and South of the U.S. in 2016 but were mostly unchanged in the Midwest and West.
According to the estimates, 18.4 percent of Montgomery County — nearly 95,000 people — live below the official poverty line.
A family of four with an income below $24,563 was defined as poor last year.
The national poverty rate in 2016 was back to a pre-recession level for the first time; an estimated 12.7 percent of the population — 40.6 million people — are living in poverty. That’s 2.5 million fewer than in 2015.
Median household income is generally regarded as a good barometer of economic growth among Americans. It’s the dividing line where half of a population makes more and half makes less.
“This has been two consecutive years of strong income growth,” said Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief with the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase is attributed not so much to people’s pay rising but to more people becoming part of the full-time workforce, she said.
“We saw a jump in the number of people working and the number of people working full-time,” Renwick said.
The female-to-male earnings gap narrowed for the first time since before the recession. In 2016, females earned 80.5 percent of what males did.
Incomes rose for most demographic groups as well. African-American median household income jumped 5.7 percent to $39,490 in 2016 from the previous year, the most of any group. Among Hispanics, it rose to 4.3 percent to $47,675. For whites, the gain was 2 percent to $65,041.
“We see that there’s still big gaps in racial groups,” said Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher for left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio. Black and Hispanic Americans earning less than whites and all earning less than Asians with the highest household incomes at $81,431.
And while overall income growth has been strong, Halbert said, it’s been uneven.
“The bottom 20 percent of earners, their income is down 2.7 percent since 2007,” she said. The report shows the top 20 percent of earners have seen an 8.7 percent increase over the same time period.
The census estimates found that Warren County is the only Miami Valley area that saw real change in population from the 2015 American Community Survey estimates to 2016 with a 1.2 percent increase in population to 227,063 people.
Clark and Montgomery counties shrunk by less than 1 percent while Butler, Greene, and Miami counties grew by less than 1 percent.
The city of Dayton’s population also remained flat between the two estimates at about 140,500 people.
The percentage of people nationwide with health insurance coverage for all or part of 2016 was 91.2 percent, the reports found.
Private health insurance continues to be most prevalent with 67.5 percent of the population insured through their employer or direct-purchase insurance.
Medicare was the only type of health insurance that saw statistically significant gains between 2015 and 2016, likely due to an increase in the number of people age 65 or older.
Ohio’s uninsured rate was 5.6 percent in 2016, down from 6.5 percent the year before and 11 percent before Medicaid expansion.
Local uninsured rates in 2016 ranged from 3.4 percent in Warren County to 6.1 percent in Montgomery County.
“It is that Medicaid expansion that has really decreased the uninsured rate,” said Melissa Thomasson, a professor of economics at Miami University. Those gains are in jeopardy if various plans to get rid of the ACA come to pass, she said.
“To the extent that some of these proposals to repeal and not fully replace the ACA take away money that’s given to states to do (Medicaid expansion), I think we would be back to where we were,” Thomasson said.