New Census data released today shows median household incomes in Kentucky rose by over $2,000 in Kentucky last year, evidence of an improving economy with rising wages for workers. However, the number of Kentuckians in poverty continues to be too high and some rural parts of the state are showing little progress.
Median household income in Kentucky rose from $43,014 in 2014 to $45,215 in 2015, an increase of 5 percent, according to the report. That reflects both a fall in the unemployment rate and a rise in median earnings for workers. The poverty rate declined from 19.1 percent to 18.5 percent, but the decrease was not statistically significant.
While the rise in incomes was good news, the state still falls short relative to where it stood before the Great Recession hit in 2007—when poverty was at 17.2 percent — and when the economy was at full employment in 2000, when poverty was 16.4 percent. In addition, Kentucky’s child poverty rate in 2015 was 25.5 percent, up from 23.4 percent in 2007.
“It’s great news to see incomes rising for Kentucky households after wages have been stagnant for most of the last 15 years,” Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said. “However, we still have progress to make before we can say the economy as a whole is fully recovered and we have longstanding inequalities that need to be addressed.”
Disparities in terms of region, race and other factors remain across Kentucky.
- Median incomes improved in 2015 in the 3rd and 6th Congressional Districts — including the biggest cities of Lexington and Louisville — as well as the 1st District in far western Kentucky, but not in other districts.
- Poverty in the 5th Congressional District of eastern Kentucky was at 28.9 percent with no statistically significant improvement from 29.2 percent last year. Child poverty in the district stood statistically unchanged at 39.7 percent.
- The African American poverty rate in Kentucky remained high at 30.8 percent compared to a 16.8 percent poverty rate for white Kentuckians. Median incomes did rise for African American Kentuckians in 2015.
“We need to do more to build thriving communities,” Bailey said. “We should be raising the minimum wage state-wide, improving education and making college more affordable, advancing criminal justice reform and increasing federal investment in eastern Kentucky to help the region’s economic transition.”