The United States Census Bureau recently released data demonstrating the largest economic gains the United States has experienced in nearly a generation, as poverty fell, health insurance coverage spread and incomes rose sharply for U.S. households at every income level. The historic gains ended years of stagnation following the greatest recession since the Great Depression and marked an important milestone for an economic expansion that began in 2009.
Median household income in the United States grew by 5.2 percent in 2015 – the largest single-year increase since the Census Bureau began reporting data on household income in 1967 – with lower-income households seeing the largest income gains in percentage terms. The poverty rate also posted its sharpest decline in decades.
In addition to income gains, the Census Bureau also reported that the share of Americans with health insurance continued to increase, with only 9.1 percent of the U.S. population reporting that they had no health insurance last year – the lowest mark since the Census Bureau began measuring the uninsured rate.
Despite broad, strong income gains and a sharp decline in poverty, however, the income gap remains wide and the distribution of wealth severely tilted in favor of the affluent. Last year’s gains by lower-income households, while significant, were not enough to shift measures of income inequality. So at this critical moment in our history, it is critical that we continue down this path of poverty reduction, middle class expansion and shared prosperity.