Census release provides more data on poverty and the uninsured

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

U.S. Census Bureau

When the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual estimate of income, poverty and health insurance coverage this month, health insurance numbers were front and center. While family finances and the nation’s official poverty rate was stagnant last year, the numbers of those lacking coverage fell. Now newly released regional data offers a chance to tell more layered stories.

The overall findings, which cover 2014, offered a snapshot of how people in the United States are faring amid the first full year that the Affordable Care Act required most people to obtain health insurance coverage or face penalties. It also showed how many are still failing to see gains years after the recession officially ended.

The health care gains clearly stood out in the coverage of the findings from Census, which released its main report on Sept. 16. But peel back the layers and other interesting trends also emerged. One particularly interesting finding was that more women had health insurance last year than men.

U.S. Census BureauWhile health insurance coverage increased overall in 2014, poverty rates across U.S. states offered a mixed picture, U.S. Census Bureau data showed.

Since the overall report, the bureau has released regional health insurance data. The data, based on the latest one-year data from its American Community Survey (ACS), cover Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburg, San Antonio and Tampa, among other metropolitan areas. Check here to see if the one for your readers is included.

So-called “subnational estimates” also looked at poverty and income across U.S. states. Census researchers found that poverty rates rose in one state – Alaska – and fell in a dozen others: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington. Elsewhere, it remained the same. Data for these estimates, also based on the annual ACS and covering areas with populations of 65,000 or more, are now online.

Estimates for areas with smaller populations are expected later in the year, Census has said.

Find an interesting tale in the numbers? Share your follow-up stories using the crowdsourcing link at the bottom of the Social Determinants topic page at healthjournalism.org.

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