September 26, 2019

More than 2.8 Million Floridians Struggle on Income Below the Poverty Level

New Census data show Florida’s rate of poverty and child poverty remain worse than the national average; major disparities exist in Florida along racial and ethnic lines

ORLANDO, Fla – New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) show that current state policies continue to exacerbate both economic and racial inequality in the Sunshine State, according to the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI). Florida’s share of residents living below the federal poverty level, median household income for families in the state and the rate of residents without health insurance coverage remain worse than the U.S. average. People of color, who face significant structural barriers like limited access to employment because of discriminatory hiring practices, are subsequently more likely to struggle economically and continue to face higher rates of poverty than white residents.

“State lawmakers need to prioritize boosting household income and fixing the state’s upside-down tax system instead of enacting revenue-losing measures year after year that benefit the wealthiest residents to the detriment of everyone else,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI.

State lawmakers could improve the quality of life for Florida residents and help reduce economic inequality by:

  • Expanding Medicaid to 800,000 residents who are struggling to make ends meet;
  • Investing in quality schools, affordable housing, modernized roads and bridges and 21st century workforce training programs;
  • Closing special interest tax loopholes and reinvesting that revenue into other areas of the budget; and
  • Removing barriers to work for both returning citizens and people who are undocumented.

Florida Sees Small Improvements in Rate of Poverty and Child Poverty, But Rates Remain Higher Than Before the Great Recession

The share of Floridians living below the poverty threshold decreased from 14 percent in 2017 to 13.6 percent in 2018. When compared to pre-recession levels, however, Florida’s poverty rate has increased from 12.1 percent to 13.6 percent.

Florida’s rate of child poverty improved slightly between 2017 and 2018, from 20 percent to 19 percent. Still, there was a greater share of children living in poverty in 2018 (20 percent) than in 2007 (16 percent). There were roughly 145,000 more children living in poverty in 2018 than there were in 2007. Additionally, Florida’s rate of child poverty still remains higher than the national average, which is 18 percent.

Census Data Show Major Disparities in Median Income Along Racial and Ethnic Lines

Despite small increases in year-to-year data for median household income in Florida, it remains below pre-Recession levels. Additionally, there are significant disparities along racial and ethnic lines. Median income was $41,416 for Black households and $49,903 for Latino households in 2018. This is much lower than the median income of $59,004 for white, non-Hispanic households.

The most recent economic data for the state show that Florida has added jobs consistently since 2011. However, the data on median household income noted above, coupled with data showing that wages have stagnated, paint a more troubling picture of Florida’s economy. Economic opportunity continues to be out of reach for many Floridians who have not benefited from economic growth over the past decade.

Additionally, Florida is one of only five states with a Gini index score higher than the national average. The Gini index is a standard economic measure of income inequality.

Progress Made in Florida’s Rate of Residents with Health Care Coverage Has Stalled

The state's uninsured rate — 13 percent — remains virtually unchanged from the previous year and significantly above the national average of 8.9 percent.

Between 2013, the year before major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, and 2016, the number of uninsured Floridians dropped from 20 percent to 12.5 percent.  Such progress has stalled, however. There are 2.7 million Floridians who do not have health care coverage, and the state’s uninsured rate is likely to climb even higher with continued federal legislative and administrative efforts to weaken the ACA. This includes slashing millions of dollars previously used to enroll people in Medicaid and private insurance through the federal marketplace.

The ACS is a nationwide survey that collects and produces information each year on social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics about the nation’s population. The Census Bureau, according to its website, contacts 3.5 million households every year to participate in the ACS.

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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