U.S. Bureau of the Census

09/15/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/15/2020 09:03

PRESS RELEASE | SEPTEMBER 15, 2020 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Median household income in 2019 increased 6.8% from 2018, and the official[...]

SEPT. 15, 2020 - The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that median household income in 2019 increased 6.8% from 2018, and the official poverty rate decreased 1.3 percentage points. Meanwhile the percentage of people with health insurance coverage for all or part of 2019 was 92.0% and 8.0% of people, or 26.1 million, did not have health insurance at any point during 2019, according to the 2020 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC).

Median household income was $68,703 in 2019, an increase of 6.8% from the 2018 median. Between 2018 and 2019, the real median earnings of all workers increased by 1.4%, while the real median earnings of full-time, year-round workers increased 0.8%. The 2019 real median earnings of men and women who worked full-time, year-round increased by 2.1% and 3.0%, respectively, between 2018 and 2019. The difference between the 2018-2019 percent changes in median earnings for men and women working full-time, year-round was not statistically significant. The number of full-time, year-round workers increased by approximately 1.2 million between 2018 and 2019. Between 2018 and 2019, the total number of people with earnings increased by about 2.2 million.

The official poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5%, a decrease of 1.3 percentage points from 11.8% in 2018. This is the fifth consecutive annual decline in the national poverty rate. Since 2014, the poverty rate has fallen 4.3 percentage points, from 14.8% to 10.5%. The 2019 poverty rate of 10.5% is the lowest rate observed since estimates were initially published for 1959. The number of people in poverty in 2019 was 34.0 million, 4.2 million fewer people than 2018.

Private health insurance coverage was more prevalent than public coverage, covering 68.0% and 34.1% of the population at some point during the year, respectively. Employment-based insurance was the most common subtype. Some people may have more than one coverage type during the calendar year.

These findings are contained in two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2019.

Another Census Bureau report, The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2019, was also released today. The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rate in 2019 was 11.7%. This was 1.0 percentage point lower than the 2018 SPM rate of 12.8%. The SPM provides an alternative way of measuring poverty in the United States and serves as an additional indicator of economic well-being. The Census Bureau has published poverty estimates using the SPM annually since 2011 with the collaboration of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The Current Population Survey (CPS), sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and BLS, is conducted every month and is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population; it is used to calculate monthly unemployment rate estimates. Supplements are added in most months; the CPS ASEC is designed to give annual, national estimates of income, poverty and health insurance numbers and rates. The CPS ASEC is conducted in February, March and April. It collects information about income and health insurance coverage during the prior calendar year. As data were collected in February, March and April 2020 about income and health insurance coverage in 2019, this report does not reflect economic impacts related to COVID-19, but instead serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark for future research.

This year, data collection faced extraordinary circumstances. As the United States began to grapple with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the nation, interviewing for the March CPS began on March 15. In order to protect the health and safety of Census Bureau staff and respondents, the survey suspended in-person interviewing and closed both Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) contact centers on March 20. For the rest of March and through April, the Census Bureau continued to attempt all interviews by phone. For those whose first month in the survey was March or April, the Census Bureau used vendor-provided telephone numbers associated with the sample address.

While the Census Bureau went to great lengths to complete interviews by telephone, the response rate for the CPS basic household survey was 73% in March 2020, about 10 percentage points lower than in preceding months and the same period in 2019, which were regularly above 80%. The change from conducting first interviews in person to making first contacts by telephone contributed to the lower response rates and it is likely that the characteristics of people for whom a telephone number was found may be systematically different from the people for whom the Census Bureau was unable to obtain a telephone number. While the Census Bureau creates weights designed to adjust for nonresponse and to control weighted counts to independent population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, the magnitude of the increase in (and differential nature of) nonresponse related to the pandemic likely reduced their efficacy.Using administrative data, Census Bureau researchers have documented that the nonrespondents in 2020 are less similar to respondents than in earlier years. Of particular interest for the estimates in this report released today are the differences in median income and educational attainment, indicating that respondents in 2020 had relatively higher income and were more educated than nonrespondents.

The 2019 income and poverty report is based on the CPS ASEC and includes comparisons with the previous year and historical tables in the report, which contain statistics back to 1959. The health insurance report is based on both the CPS ASEC and the American Community Survey (ACS). State and local income, poverty and health insurance estimates from the ACS will be released Thursday, Sept. 17.