New U.S. census data released Thursday shows that Missouri is one of just two states where median incomes fell in 2012 from the previous year, as many residents continue to grapple with a slow-to-recover economy.
Median household income in the state was $45,321 last year, a 1.6 percent decline from 2011. Nationally, the median income for U.S. households in 2012 was $51,017. That figure remained flat after two previous annual declines. Virginia was the only other state to see a median income decline. Four states saw increases, including Illinois.
The U.S. Census Bureau also reported a statewide poverty rate of 11.7 percent for Missouri, compared to a national rate of 15 percent. But for single Missouri mothers with dependent children, the poverty level hovers around 44 percent.
The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,492 or less for a family of four. A record 46.5 million Americans fall into that category, though the Census Bureau notes its pre-tax income calculations don’t include accumulated wealth, such as savings and home ownership. Nor does it include non-cash government aid such as food stamps and the earned income tax credit.
Statewide, nearly 270,000 of the 1.5 million families who participated in the annual American Community Survey reported household incomes less than $24,999.
Advocates for the poor seized on the findings to criticize state lawmakers for not adequately investing in public education. The Republican-led Legislature repeatedly rejected Medicaid expansion proposals in the 2013 session, citing concern that the federal subsidies to help pay for the expansion won’t last, leaving the state with the bills.
“Cutting important investments in education and infrastructure is not the way to boost our economy or lift people out of poverty,” said Amy Blouin, executive director of the Missouri Budget Project. “Missouri needs an economic policy that provides all Missourians with the tools they need to overcome poverty and provide for their families.”
More than 801,000 Missourians lacked health insurance in 2012, representing 13.6 percent of the state’s 5.9 million residents. More than half the members of that group had no insurance even though they were employed – a gap expected to be rectified by the federal Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges starting in January.