NJ Income and Poverty Stay Flat

National Data Declines. Will it Inspire Deeper Discussion Abound Ending Poverty?

Compared to other states, including NJ’s neighbors, we have had some of the weakest improvements in wages, poverty, median household and per capita income.

  1. New Census numbers show that while the household median income in 2015 went up by 5.2 percent nationally, the household median income in New Jersey remained stagnant.
  2. New Jersey household income went from $71,994 in 2014 to $72,222 in 2015. Both figures are in 2015 inflation-adjusted dollars.
  3. The state’s poverty rate dropped in 2015, but very modestly – going from 11.1 percent in 2014 to 10.8 percent.
  4. In 2015, there were still 946,114 people living in poverty.

However, the national data was positive for the first time since 1999.

On September 13, 2015, Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, issues a statement that “Health Coverage, Income, and Poverty all move decisively in the right direction for the first time since 1999.”

On the same day, the United States Census Bureau reported that that real median household income increased by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 while the official poverty rate decreased 1.2 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Median household income in the United States in 2015 was $56,516, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median income of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession.

The Star-Ledger reported “Dead last: N.J. worst in nation in economic growth last year,” that:

  • New Jersey household income went from $71,994 in 2014 to $72,222 in 2015. Both figures are in 2015 inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • The nation’s official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, with 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015 represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999.
  • The state’s poverty rate dropped in 2015, but very modestly – going from 11.1 percent in 2014 to 10.8 percent.
  • In 2015, there were still 946,114 people living in poverty.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2015 calendar year was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of people without health insurance declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million over the period

Writes Greenstein, “The welcome progress of 2015 reflects both reasonably “tight” labor markets and improved government policies.”

The NY Times editorial board wrote in an editorial: “The Failure to Talk Frankly About Poverty.”

“Poverty in the United States is deeper than in all other wealthy nations. Yet neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has a specific anti-poverty agenda,” wrote the editorial board. “The question now is whether the new data will inspire a deeper discussion about how to keep making progress.”

Greenstein makes recommendations about how to continue to move in the right direction on health coverage, income and poverty.

“To sustain across-the-board progress, the Federal Reserve should continue to promote tight labor markets, especially given continued low inflation.”

“Policymakers also should further expand refundable tax credits for the working poor and expand access to child care for low-income families with children. Finally, federal policymakers should fend off attacks on health reform, and the 19 states that haven’t yet adopted health reform’s Medicaid expansion should do so,”

Continued Greenstein.

CBPP Statement

Star-Ledger Article

New York Times Editorial

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