The Census Bureau released new poverty and income data on Tuesday morning, drawing on results from the 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements. The data is used to calculate the official poverty rate in the U.S., as well as to track how changes in the economy — such as in the employment prospects of workers — impact the incomes of American households, and the differences between them. We'll drill down further into the new numbers today, but here are the major takeaways:
The poverty rate declined to 14.5 percent
The official poverty rate declined from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, although the number of Americans living in poverty remained statistically unchanged for the third year in a row. That's largely because of population growth. Poverty is now starting to tick down as unemployment declines, and as more workers, who held at best part-time jobs in 2012, find full-time employment. Between 2012 and 2013, Census counted 2.8 million net new full-time workers in the United States, with many of those jobs marginally improving the prospects of families that had been living below the poverty line.
The poverty rate, however, is still 2 percentage points higher than it was in 2007, before the start of the recession.
As a result, the child poverty rate dropped for the first time since 2000
This is a big deal and a statistically significant change (from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent). The recent news doesn't look quite as good for older Americans, although their rate is statistically unchanged from 2012.
Median household income hasn't budged much, but at least it's no longer falling
Nationwide, the change in real median household income wasn't statistically significant from 2012 to 2013. Households still haven't recovered all of the income losses they suffered during the recession, with the median income still 8 percent lower in 2013 than it was in 2007, on the eve of the housing collapse. Hispanic households, however, saw a 3.5 percent increase in incomes over the last year, the only group with a statistically significant change:
Over the last 40 years, incomes at the bottom and median have stayed largely flat
Because of this, income inequality has grown over the same time
There was no significant change in income inequality between 2012 and 2013. The equivalence-adjusted Gini takes into account the fact that the same household income goes farther (or less far) for households of different sizes.