Median household income and poverty rates continue to stall in Kentucky overall while numbers worsened in eastern Kentucky and among African Americans, according to new Census Bureau data recently released. The data underline the need to invest in creating jobs in distressed rural and urban areas while also raising the statewide minimum wage, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Executive Director Jason Bailey said.
“Kentucky has a long way to go until we can say we have a strong economy where all Kentuckians’ lives are getting better,” Bailey said. “We need much more serious efforts to create jobs for those being left behind — especially eastern Kentuckians and African Americans — and put more emphasis on raising wages for Kentucky workers whose paychecks aren’t getting any bigger.”
Kentucky’s overall poverty rate went from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 19.1 percent in 2014 while median household income in Kentucky fell from an inflation-adjusted $44,101 in 2013 to $42,958 in 2014 (neither change was statistically significant).
The state remains far behind where we were before the recession hit. In 2007, Kentucky poverty was lower at 17.3 percent and median income was higher at an inflation-adjusted $45,973.
While the state poverty rate was statistically unchanged, it rose in eastern Kentucky. The poverty rate in the Fifth Congressional District of Appalachian Kentucky increased from 26.7 percent in 2013 to 29.2 percent in 2014. Child poverty in that region increased from 34.3 percent to 39.8 percent.
The poverty rate also rose for African Americans in Kentucky from 28.8 percent in 2013 to 32.4 percent in 2014. Median income for African Americans fell from an inflation-adjusted $30,183 to $26,735 over the last year.
“Priorities should include fair tax reform that allows greater investment in the people and regions that need support and a boost in wages through an increase in Kentucky’s outdated minimum wage,” Bailey said. “We also need Congress to invest in efforts like the Power+ Plan to create jobs in eastern Kentucky at a time when its economy is transitioning.”
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative that conducts research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Launched in 2011, the Center is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).