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Four things we learned about Minnesota from the latest Census data release

Incomes and the population are up. Poverty and the rate of people without health insurance are basically unchanged.

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data on how Minnesotans are doing as far as things like income, poverty and health insurance go, and what our state’s population looks like.

The new numbers, part of a dataset released annually, give us a measuring stick for how the people of our state were doing in 2017 compared to previous years.

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For the most part, they show that the 5,576,606 people who call Minnesota home — about 57,000 more than in 2016 — remain on a steady trajectory, both for better — economically, Minnesotans are doing better than they were a year ago — and for worse — the land of lakes is still the land of deep disparities.

1. Incomes continue to rise.

Between 2016 and 2017, the median household income for all Minnesotans increased from an estimated $65,599 to $68,388.

Minnesota median household income by race/ethnicity, 2006–2017
Note: Data shown in 2017 dollars.
Source: ACS compiled by Minnesota Compass and MinnPost

These numbers come from the American Community Survey. Unlike the Census, which happens every 10 years and tries to take account of every household in the U.S., the annual survey is sent to a sample of households and yields an estimate, with a margin of error. But even accounting for margins of error, Minnesota’s median household incomes are up.

Minnesota’s white, black, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino households all appear to have increases in incomes, though not all of them saw statistically significant ones.

Still, these numbers should be interpreted as a step in the right direction, said State Demographer Susan Brower. More so than looking at year-to-year estimates, it’s important to look at the long-term trend, which now shows four years of rising incomes for Minnesotans of color.

In addition to income gains, the data show steady growth in full-time employment at higher wage levels — more than $35,000 a year — and growth in employment for black and Hispanic or Latino Minnesotans, Brower said.

“As the economy has continued to expand and recover, and … as  unemployment has stayed low over the last several years, you see this pulling of more people into the labor force and into jobs that are higher paying,” Brower said.

Racial disparities persist, though: Black households in Minnesota make just over half of what white households make. American Indian, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and Minnesotans of another race or of two or more races saw declines in median household income between 2016 and 2017, but the estimates had large margins of error.

“The racial gap in employment is closing and has been closing, but the reward from that employment has not been equal,” said Justin Hollis, a research scientist at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

Overall, Minnesota’s population is 80 percent white, 6 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic or Latino, 5 percent Asian and 1 percent American Indian, plus others who don’t fit in those categories.

2. Poverty is — about the same.

The share of Minnesotans living below the poverty level was just under 10 percent — it went from 9.9 percent to 9.5 percent between 2016 and 2017, a slight decline that’s within the margin of error.

Minnesota poverty rate, 2006–2017
Source: American Community Survey, Minnesota Compass

Again, there are big racial disparities here. Just 7 percent of white Minnesotans live below the poverty line. That’s compared to 29 percent of American Indian Minnesotans, 28 percent of black Minnesotans, 19 percent of Hispanic or Latino Minnesotans and 12 percent of Asian Minnesotans living in poverty. Each of those numbers is lower than, but not statistically different from, the 2016 estimate.

As poverty shows a declining trajectory in recent years, “Minnesotans are back where they were just before the recession,” Hollis said. Still, the poverty rate is up considerably compared to where it was a couple of decades ago.

3. Health insurance rates are pretty much unchanged – for now

Minnesota has seen a steady decline in its rate of uninsured residents after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The rate of uninsured went from around 9 percent that year, steadily down to about 4 percent, where it’s hovered for the last two years.

This year’s data shows a slight uptick in the share of Minnesotans who are uninsured — 0.3 percent — but the increase isn’t significant.

Minnesota uninsurance rate, 2008–2017
Source: American Community Survey, Minnesota Compass

It could be significant in the future, though: Congress repealed the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandate, which required Americans to have coverage or pay a penalty. That goes into effect in 2019, so we might not see the results of it in the ACS data until 2019 data is released in 2020.

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Minnesotans had the highest rates of uninsurance of any specific Minnesota racial or ethnic group, at 2o percent, followed by American Indian and Hispanic or Latino Minnesotans, 17 percent; black Minnesotans, 6 percent; Asian Minnesotans, 4 percent; and white Minnesotans, 3 percent.

4. Minnesota’s gaining immigrants

Between 2016 and 2017, the share of Minnesotans born outside the U.S. increased from 8.2 to 8.7 percent. That’s the highest that share has been since the 1940s, according to Census data.

Foreign-born Minnesotans, 2006–2017
Source: American Community Survey, Minnesota Compass

The share of foreign-born Minnesotans was as high as about a third in the 1870s, according to Census data (for more on where foreign-born Minnesotans came from by decade, check out this story) but had dropped off over time until recently.

Since these populations are a small fraction of Minnesota’s population, the margins of error are large, but show the biggest numerical gain came in Minnesotans born in Africa, followed by Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania. The number of Minnesotans born in Latin America, specifically the number of Minnesotans born in Latin America who were noncitizens, declined, according to the data.