Minnesota: Poverty up, median income down, racial disparities persist

The Census released results from the 2009 American Community Survey on Tuesday morning - and the numbers do not look good for Minnesota (read our press release).

Poverty increased. The overall percentage of Minnesotans living in poverty rose to 11 percent in 2009, a significant increase from pre-recession levels. Some people in Minnesota saw a particularly strong increase in poverty between 2007 and 2009, including Latinos (four percentage point increase), children (two percentage point increase) and white non-Hispanics (one percentage point increase). Remember, in 2009, a family of three would have had to earn less than $18,300 to be considered living in poverty.

Median household income fell. Demonstrating that the effects of the recession were felt by most families, Minnesota’s median household income fell by two percent between 2008 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Although it dropped by about $1,000 to $55,616, Minnesota’s median household income remained higher than the national level ($50,221).

The racial disparities are stunning. Even though non-Hispanic whites experienced a significant increase in poverty and a significant decline in median household income, Minnesota’s communities of color are the ones who are really being left behind. Demonstrating the impact of the historic lack of access to educational and employment opportunities, Blacks, American Indian and Latino communities experienced much lower median household incomes and much higher rates of poverty in 2009.

The numbers are dramatic – 35 percent of Blacks and American Indians in Minnesota fell below the poverty line in 2009. Latinos (26 percent) and Asians (17 percent) also had a significantly higher poverty rate than non-Hispanic whites (eight percent).

In 2009, the median income for Black ($26,930), American Indian ($33,930) and Latino ($38,751) households in Minnesota was also significantly lower than the median income in non-Hispanic white households ($57,979). While non-Hispanic white households had a median income well above the national median in 2009, Black households in Minnesota fell below the median income for their counterparts nationally.

Where do we go from here? In a recession, the pressure builds as the need for public services increases while state revenues are falling. We know that the state continues to face large budget shortfalls, but reducing or eliminating state services to balance the budget will not help us move forward from this recession. Continuing cuts in services means more job losses, a greater strain on remaining public services and higher poverty. It leads to a cycle where families can’t get help when they need it most.

But we can help our communities recover from the recession, and that means raising revenues to help balance the budget and maintain investments in education, health care and job training. We also need to be building a strong economy where we can reverse the disparities in our state and give everyone the opportunity to succeed.

-Christina Wessel

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