Two Views of the Changes in Health Insurance Rates From 2008 to 2015

Written by: Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Edward Berchick

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau is releasing a tool to look at the history of health insurance coverage in the United States: an animated map showing changes in uninsured rates by state, going back to 2008. The shift in health insurance coverage rates begins slowly, with little change occurring from 2008 to 2013. Then in 2014, we see the colors for many states lighten on the map as uninsured rates dropped across the nation, when many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect. Rates fell again in 2015, leaving only Texas and Alaska in the darkest shade of blue.

The map is effective in showing the sudden, widespread change in the uninsured rates, as well as regional differences in health insurance coverage. But maps like this one, which put states into broad groups to illustrate more general patterns, can show only approximate values. Can we learn anything by taking a more detailed view?

This dot plot displays the same dataset as the animated map, but with the states listed by their uninsured rates in 2015. On the right, dots for prior years cluster together, representing the fairly small movements in uninsured rates that occurred from 2008 to 2013. Then, in 2014, we see a shift for all states to lower uninsured rates (represented by the leftward movement of dots), followed by a further shift in 2015. It reflects the same pattern of sudden change as in the animated map. But we can now see that all states, including Texas and Alaska, experienced gains in health insurance coverage rates. We can also see that states that expanded Medicaid eligibility as part of the Affordable Care Act tended to experience larger decreases in their uninsured rates  than did nonexpansion states. As shown in the figure, many Medicaid expansion states have uninsured rates close to or better than the national average, with few listed below it. States that did not expand Medicaid eligibility more often appear lower on the figure.

Population without health insurance coverage by state

This is an example of how we can uncover additional findings when we take multiple views of a dataset.

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2014 to 2015 Median Household Income is Largest Percentage Increase Since 1998

Written by: Jonathan Rothbaum, Chief, Income Statistics Branch

Estimates released today from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) show real median household income in 2015 was $56,516, a 5.2 percent increase from the 2014 median in real terms. This is the largest year-to-year increase since 1997 to 1998, when median household income increased 3.7 percent — making this the largest increase over the past 17 years.

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Median household income in 2015 increased for many different demographic groups, including for Hispanic (6.1 percent), non-Hispanic white (4.4 percent) and black (4.1 percent) households. Although median income is highest in Asian households, their median was not statistically different between 2014 and 2015. Note that the increases (6.1 percent, 4.4 percent and 4.1 percent) are not statistically different from each other.

Households across the country experienced growth in median household income, with an increase of 6.4 percent in the West, 5.1 percent in the Midwest, 4.9 percent in the Northeast and 2.9 percent in the South. Note that when comparing these increases across regions, only the median income growth in the West is greater than in the South. The differences between the increases of the remaining regions were not statistically different.

Further, the increase was experienced by householders in nearly all age groups. By age of householder, the median household income increased for:

  • 25- to 34-year-olds (5.6 percent).
  • 35- to 44-year-olds (7.0 percent).
  • 45- to 54-year-olds (4.2 percent).
  • 55- to 64-year-olds (3.5 percent).
  • Ages 65 and older (4.3 percent).

Note that the percent increases for each age group were not statistically different from each other.

Other groups that experienced increases in median household income include both native- and foreign-born, both men and women who work full time and year-round, and households in metropolitan statistical areas.

You can find out more about this increase in median household income by visiting <www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/income.html> to explore income and poverty data for 2015 as well as previous years.

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Census Bureau Releases 2015 Supplemental Poverty Measure

Written By: Trudi Renwick and Liana Fox

Today the U.S. Census Bureau, in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released its sixth annual supplemental poverty measure report.  This measure extends information provided by the official poverty measure by explicitly including benefits from many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals.

According to the report, the supplemental poverty measure (SPM) rate in 2015 was 14.3 percent, which was significantly lower than the rate of 15.3 percent in 2014. The supplemental rate was higher than the official poverty rate of 13.5 percent in 2015.

Since the publication of the first official U.S. poverty estimates in 1964, there has been a continuing discussion about the best approach to measure income and poverty in the United States. In 2009, an interagency group asked the Census Bureau, in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to develop a supplemental measure to allow for an improved understanding of the economic well-being of American families and the impact of federal policies.

The supplemental poverty measure differs from the official measure in several key ways. First, the official measure only looks at pretax money income, while the supplemental measure adds the value of noncash benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit into the definition of “income” or “resources.” Additionally, necessary expenses for essential goods and services such as taxes, childcare and work expenses, and contributions toward the cost of medical care and health insurance premiums are deducted from income in the supplemental measure.

The supplemental measure also uses a more inclusive definition of family (including unmarried partners and their relatives, unrelated children and foster children). Finally, the supplemental measure applies geographically-adjusted thresholds that adjust for family composition and housing tenure status.

One important contribution of the supplemental poverty measure is that it allows one to gauge the effectiveness of tax credits and transfers in reducing poverty. It can also show the impact of necessary expenses, such as paying taxes or work-related and medical out-of-pocket expenses, on a family’s ability to meet basic needs.

For example, the SPM report shows that:

  • Without Social Security benefits, the supplemental poverty rate overall would have been 8.3 percentage points higher. This represents about 26.6 million more individuals in poverty, including 17.1 million individuals age 65 and older.
  • People 65 and older had a supplemental poverty rate of 13.7 percent, equating to 6.5 million people in poverty. Excluding Social Security from income would more than triple the poverty rate for this group, resulting in a poverty rate of 49.7 percent.
  • Not including refundable tax credits (the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable portion of the child tax credit) in resources would have resulted in an additional 9.2 million individuals falling into poverty, a 2.9 percentage point increase.
  • Not accounting for refundable tax credits for children would have resulted in a poverty rate of 22.6 percent rather than 16.1 percent. This difference represents 4.8 million children who would have been considered poor in the absence of these credits.
  • Taking account of other noncash benefits also lowered poverty rates. For example, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits lowered the overall poverty rate by 1.4 percentage points or 4.6 million people.

The figure below shows the effect of various elements of the supplemental poverty measure on the number of individuals below poverty for 2015. Each bar is divided by the age composition of the population affected by the inclusion of each element.

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Social Security transfers and refundable tax credits had the largest impacts in raising individuals above the SPM poverty thresholds, with Social Security affecting the largest number of adults ages 18 to 64 and 65 years and older, while refundable tax credits affected the largest number of children.

For more information, check out The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015 report.

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Another Look at Health Insurance Coverage Rates for Young Adults

Written by: Jennifer Cheeseman Day, Marina Vornovitsky and Danielle Taylor

In the last half decade, young adults (ages 19 to 25) gained health insurance coverage more than any other age group (Figure 1). In 2010, young adults had the highest uninsured rate compared with every other age group — with about one-third of them lacking health insurance. Since then, their uninsured rate has dropped dramatically, with the most recent figures indicating one in six of young adults lack health insurance coverage. How did this group improve so much?

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The change occurred in two waves: between 2010 to 2013 and 2013 to 2015. As shown in the report, Health Insurance Coverage of Young Adults Aged 19 to 25: 2008, 2009, and 2011, young adults benefited from the federal law change in 2010 when adult children under age 26 could now be covered by their parents’ private health insurance plans. Prior to this change, only young adults enrolled in school could be included on their parents’ plans. Then, after 2013, further provisions in the healthcare law expanded health insurance coverage options for everyone, including young adults not already covered through their parents’ private plan.

So let’s look at the numbers. In 2010, the uninsured rate for young adults enrolled in school was about one-half that of their counterparts, who were not enrolled, 20.3 percent compared with 41.9 percent (Figure 2). Between 2010 and 2013, the uninsured rate improved 10 percentage points for young adults not enrolled and 3 percentage points for those enrolled in school. During the most recent two years (between 2013 and 2015), both young adult groups, enrolled and not enrolled, experienced sharp declines, though the uninsured rate for enrolled young adults remained lower than that of those not enrolled (10.0 percent and 20.6 percent).

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So what kind of health insurance did young adults get? Looking at Figure 3, we can see that between 2010 and 2013, almost all of the changes in health insurance coverage were concentrated in employment-based health insurance, most likely through a parent’s employer. The rates of employment-based health insurance for young adults not enrolled in school increased by 10 percentage points compared with 3 percentage points for those enrolled in school. After 2013, the increased health insurance coverage of young adults, both enrolled and not enrolled in school, mirrored that of all working-age adults, gaining coverage through direct purchase and Medicaid, as well as making further gains in employment-based health insurance.

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2015 Drop in Poverty is Largest on Record Since 1999

Written by: Ashley Edwards, Chief, Poverty Statistics Branch

Estimates released today from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) show the official poverty rate in the United States declined to 13.5 percent in 2015, a 1.2 percentage point drop from 2014. The last time poverty rates declined this much from year to year was from 1998 to 1999 – making this the largest decline in poverty rates over the past 16 years.

Since 1959, the first year for which the U.S. Census Bureau released poverty estimates, there has been only one year with a larger decline in poverty rates, 1966, when poverty declined by 2.6 percentage points following the implementation of a revised methodology for processing income data. poverty-blog-fig-1
Between 2014 and 2015, poverty rates declined for many different demographic groups. Poverty rates fell for both males and females. In 2015, 12.2 percent of males were in poverty while 14.8 percent of females were in poverty.

Poverty rates declined for all three major age groups between 2014 and 2015. Poverty decreased to 12.4 percent for people aged 18 to 64, to 8.8 percent for people aged 65 and older, and declined to 19.7 percent for children under 18.

Poverty rates also declined for most racial and ethnic groups in the population. In 2015, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites declined to 9.1 percent. Poverty rates for Hispanics decreased to 21.4 percent in 2015 while the poverty rate for blacks fell to 24.1 percent. Asians did not experience a statistically significant change in their poverty rates between 2014 and 2015.

In 2015, poverty rates decreased in three of the four regions: the South, West and the Midwest. The Northeast did not experience a statistically significant change in the poverty rate between 2014 and 2015.

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You can find out more about this decline in poverty by visiting <www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty.html> to explore income and poverty data across additional demographic groups for 2015 as well as previous years.

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