Nearly One-Third of Kentucky Households Had Less than $25,000 in Income in 2010

By Jason Bailey
September 22, 2011


Nearly One-Third of Kentucky Households Had Less than $25,000 in Income in 2010

Erosion of middle class highlights need for investment to address unemployment

Median household income fell in Kentucky in 2010 and a growing share of the state’s households earn incomes between $10,000 and $25,000 according to new Census data released today. 32.4 percent of Kentucky households had incomes less than $25,000 last year.

“Ongoing high unemployment is putting a middle class standard of living out of reach for an increasing number of Kentuckians,” said Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “Spurring job growth through targeted investment is critical to helping solve this problem.”

22.1 percent of Kentucky households made between $10,000 and $25,000 a year in 2010 compared to 20.2 percent in 2008. Median household income declined and is now $2,427 a year less than it was in 2006.

Real incomes are declining due to persistent unemployment as well as challenges with the quality of jobs available in Kentucky. The data show that a smaller share of Kentuckians work in construction and in manufacturing than in 2007–traditional sources of middle-class incomes for Kentucky families–while a larger share work in retail trade.

Without the support of key safety net programs, the income problem would be even worse. 16.6 percent of Kentuckians in 2010 received Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, up from 12.4 percent in 2007. Nearly one-third of Kentuckians received health insurance through a public source, an increase over the previous year.

“In a few months Kentucky will craft a new state budget while Congress is making important decisions about the federal budget,” said Bailey. “It is essential that they both protect services that help Kentuckians weather the storm and make investments that inject much-needed demand in a weak economy.”

“The news in Kentucky highlights a big disconnect: a crumbling bridge and other inadequate infrastructure in the neighborhood of construction workers in need of a job,” said Bailey. “There is work to be done and people willing to do it. We are missing the public action needed to make that work happen.”

Tough times are hitting certain groups of Kentuckians particularly hard. Kentucky as a whole had a 19.0 percent poverty rate in 2010. While whites had a 17.0 poverty rate, African Americans had a 33.6 percent rate and Latinos a 33.4 percent rate.

The data come from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) one-year estimates for 2010. The Census considers the ACS its most authoritative estimate of state poverty rates and income levels.

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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 receives support from grants and individual donors and is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).