How Not to Sustain Prosperity

How Not to Sustain Prosperity


President Trump clearly inherited an economy on the upswing, according to the 2016 Census report, with income, health coverage and poverty levels having all improved in the past two years.

The question is whether his administration and the Republican-controlled Congress will sustain the momentum, or even reverse it.

The Census report, released on Tuesday, showed median income, adjusted for inflation, grew by 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2106, to $59,039, as employers added jobs and hours and even, in some cases, gave raises. At the same time, the poverty rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points, or 2.5 million people, to 12.7 percent. Both measures are now at or near their prerecession levels in 2007, a hard-fought recovery.

On health care, the data show that the ranks of the uninsured fell last year by 900,000 people, to an all-time low of 8.8 percent of the population. The decline is a result of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 32 states and District of Columbia that participate in the A.C.A.’s expansion of Medicaid for low-income families had larger declines in their uninsured populations than states that do not participate. Massachusetts, for example, a pioneer in broad coverage, has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation, 2.5 percent, while Texas, which rejected Medicaid expansion, has the highest, 16.6 percent.

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A bicycle assembly facility in South Carolina. According to a new Census report, the economy improved in the past two years.

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Travis Dove/Bloomberg

The data also show the success of federal safety-net programs. If not for tax credits for low-income workers, an additional 8.2 million people would have been classified as poor last year. Similarly, food stamps and low-income housing aid lifted 3.6 million and 3.1 million people, respectively, out of poverty last year.



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