International

US poverty drops to 18-year lows

New Europe - NEOnline | IR

The US poverty rate is the lowest it has been since 2001 and middle-class income has hit a historical high, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday.

In 2018 11,8% of Americans lived under the poverty line, compared to 11,7% in 2001. Furthermore, the median US income in 2018 was $63,000, which means half the population made more than that and half less.

This boost in US incomes has come from record levels of employment, often adding a second wage in households. Numbers suggest that household income has just modestly surpassed that of 2007, more than a decade after the beginning of the depression.

But from 2017 to 2018 the United States added two million people to the ranks of the uninsured. That is the first rise in the uninsured population since President’s Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, bringing the total to 27.5 million uninsured Americans.

The uninsured rate rose to 8.5%, which is still approximately half the rate of 2010 (16,5%). From 2011 to 2017, an average of 400,000 Americans gained access to health insurance cover, each year.

In an electoral year, the hike in the number of the uninsured adds to the general climate of political polarization. Republicans can make the case that Obamacare was always flawed and its influence is waning, while Democrats can argue that defunding and dismantling the plan is adversely affecting the state of public health.

Republicans have argued that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has caused insurance premiums to surge, pushing people off the market, unless they qualify for federal subsidies. Democrats have argued that major tax cuts for higher incomes adopted by a Republican Congress at the end of 2017 eliminated the financial penalty for those who fail to take health insurance, removing the motivation for low-pay employees to be insured.

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