Analysis from Policy Matters Ohio about today's Census numbers:
Too many Ohioans are living in poverty. In 2011, Ohio's poverty rate stood at 15.1 percent. More than 1.7 million Ohioans, 1 in 7, lived in poverty. While the rate dipped a statistically insignificant 0.3 percent from 2010 figures, the state's 2-year average is still up 1.7 percent from 2008/09, 2.7 percent from the start of the 2007 recession (2006/07) and 4.9 percent from the start of the 2001 recession (2000/01), all statistically significant increases.
Ohioans are making $2,577 less than they did in 2008/09, as the two-year average median income dropped by more than 5 percent. Ohioans at the median are making $6,240 less than they made prior to the 2007 recession (2006/07), and more than $8,600 less than they did prior to the 2001 recession (2000/01). Ohio had the 7th largest drop in median income since 2000/01 and the 9th largest drop since 2006/07.
Today's state data should be considered preliminary. The state data is not sufficiently reliable for year-to-year comparisons so 2-year averages are used in the release. The Census Bureau will release data from the American Community Survey (ACS) on September 20th. The ACS is a much larger survey and will provide deeper data on poverty, health insurance, and income for the state, counties, congressional districts, and demographic groups. Policy Matters Ohio will release an additional brief on the ACS data on the 20th.
After three consecutive years of statistically significant increases in both the national poverty rate and the number of Americans living in poverty, both were statistically unchanged. Nationally, 46.2 million people, 15.0 percent, lived in poverty in 2011.
The Census Bureau attributed the leveling of the poverty rate to increases in full-time, year-round workers at the lowest income levels. Full-time, year-round workers increased in 2011 for those in the lowest-earnings quintile (17.3 percent), the second lowest-earning quintile (3.4 percent), and the highest quintile (2.5 percent).
An additional 2.3 million people would have fallen into poverty without unemployment insurance benefits, and more than 21 million people would have sunk below the poverty line without Social Security benefits. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, food assistance) kept 3.9 million people, including 1.7 million children above the poverty line in 2011. The earned income tax credit (EITC) lifted 5.7 million people, including 3.1 million children out of poverty in 2011.
Inequality continued to grow in 2011. Last year is the first one-year increase in the income inequality measure (the Gini index) since 1993. Nationally, the top 5 percent of earners gained 5.3 percent in income in 2011; the lowest quintile stayed about the same, the second lowest, middle and fourth lowest quintile (those at the bottom and middle of the earnings ladder) all lost ground over the year.
"The data released today shows too clearly that Ohioans are continuing to struggle and that the gains being made in the private sector and at the top of the economy are not being widely felt," said Hannah Halbert, policy liaison with Policy Matters Ohio. "One bright spot is smart public policy works - SNAP food assistance, Social Security, the EITC, and unemployment insurance have alleviated hardship, lifted families and children out of poverty, and buoyed the economy."
For the first time in 4 years, there was a net decrease in the number of the uninsured. The number of uninsured Americans dropped by 1.3 million. Private health coverage has been eroding for many years. While Medicaid enrollment has grown, in the past it did not grow enough to offset all of the losses in private coverage. This trend resulted in big increases in the number of uninsured in previous years.
This year, private coverage held steady for the first time in many years (covering 63.9 percent of the insured, compared to 64.0 percent in 2010.) This change appears to be the result of the health care reform provision that allows young adults, aged 18-25, to be covered through their parents' private plans. Young adults age 18-25 had the biggest drop in uninsured rates, falling a statistically-significant 2.2 percent from 2010.
In Ohio, the number of people under the age of 65 covered by an employer-provided health insurance plan continues to decline, falling 3.6 percent from 2008/09 rates. Medicaid coverage for the under 65 population increased by 2.1 percent over the same period. This balancing act kept the number of uninsured Ohioans under the age of 65 statistically steady from 2008/09.
Children under the age of 18 followed the same trend. Employer-provided coverage for that age group fell 5.1 percent from 2008/09, while Medicaid coverage expanded in nearly the same proportion, 5.7 percent, resulting in no statistically significant change in the overall rate of uninsured children.
Ohio has the opportunity to shrink the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid to low-income adults who can't afford to purchase private plans. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates that expanding Medicaid to working adults earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line (technically 138 percent because of a five percent income disregard) could result in up to 901,000 new enrollees, depending on outreach and participation.
"Medicaid expansion will bring health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans," Halbert said.