Takeaways from New Census Data: Despite Gains, Florida Trails Nation in Measures of Well-Being

September 2017
Sonia Lindell

The U.S. Census Bureau last week released results from the 2016 Current Population Survey (CPS) and its state-level counterpart, the American Community Survey (ACS), on health insurance, poverty and income, with Florida seeing gains in these indicators of residents’ well-being. However, the Sunshine State still lags behind the national average in all three of these categories. The state must do more to promote economic security and opportunity for all Floridians by preserving anti-poverty programs.

Uninsured rate declines, but still above national average

 Florida has seen yearly declines in its rate of uninsured residents since 2013, a year before major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. In 2016, Florida’s rate was 12.5 percent, a marked improvement over 2013, when 1 out of 5 Floridians lacked health insurance coverage. This is also an improvement over the state’s 2015 uninsured rate of 13.3 percent. The 2016 average uninsured rate for the nation was 8.6 percent.

Expanding Medicaid to those who fall into the “coverage gap” would improve the health and well-being of more than a half million Floridians. Moreover, the Sunshine State would see billions more in federal funding, which would free up state dollars to invest in vital public services.

Decline in share of residents living in poverty

 The poverty rate has also fallen in Florida, from 16.2 to 13 percent between 2015 and 2016; the national average is 12.7 percent. The federal poverty level, issued annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was $24,250 for a family of four in 2016. In Florida, an estimated 2,659,000 people live in poverty. For added perspective, consider that, as a general rule of thumb, rent should not be more than one-quarter of monthly income. Finding housing for a family at $500/month would be virtually unheard of in Florida, where average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,038/month.

The Administration’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to poverty-reduction programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income, putting at risk low-income children, adults with disabilities and seniors who rely on these supports to put food on the table and pay rent. The proposed cuts would impede the path of families trying to achieve economic independence and would result in more Floridians facing economic hardships and insecurity.

In recent years, these programs helped to create opportunities and reduce poverty. For example, SNAP has lifted more than a half million Floridians out of poverty each year, on average, between 2009 and 2012.

Median household income up, but income inequality remains an issue in Florida

Florida’s overall median income increased from $48,825 to $51,176 between 2015 and 2016, but remains below the U.S. median income, which increased from $56,516 to $59,039 during the same period. The Tampa, Orlando and Miami metropolitan areas had the lowest median incomes in a rank of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas, according to a Census Bureau press release on results of the American Community Survey.

Of particular note is Florida’s performance on the Gini index, a standard income inequality measure denoted by a number between 0.0 and 1.0, with 1.0 indicating “perfect inequality” in income distribution. The state is among four others—California, Connecticut, Louisiana and New York—with indices higher than the U.S.’s, which was 0.482 in 2016.

Instead of leveling the playing field, the Administration’s tax plan would make inequality in Florida even worse,  as the state’s top 1 percent of income earners would receive more than 60 percent of the total state tax cut.

Visit the Census Bureau website for more data tables on health insurance, poverty and income.


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