Kentucky makes strides in income, health coverage and education, census data shows


Median household income in Kentucky rose in 2015, the first statistically significant increase since 2007, according to new estimates released by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey program on Thursday.

Even so, “2015 income is at about the same level as 2007 income — after adjusting for inflation — because there were several income declines in the intervening years.” Matthew Ruther, director of the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville, the state clearinghouse for census information, said in an interview.

Between 2014 and 2015, the ACS numbers show that Kentucky median household income increased 5.1 percent, to $45,215 in 2015, from $43,014 in 2014 (in 2015 inflation-adjusted dollars), the center noted.

Despite the income bump, there was no statistical change in Kentucky’s poverty rate during this time, Ruther said. The poverty rate was 18.5 percent in 2015, down from 19.1 percent in 2014. The measure of income inequality showed a small but statistically significant increase, he added. Higher numbers indicate greater inequality.

“The change in median income, coupled with the persistence of the poverty number and the increase in the inequality index, is consistent with a story in which there was success in middle and higher income categories, but not within the poorer categories,” Ruther said.

In Jefferson County, median household income rose to $51,259, from $48,231, in 2015 inflation-adjusted dollars, the center said.

In response to the estimates, Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said in a news release: “It’s great news to see incomes rising for Kentucky households after wages have been stagnant for most of the last 15 years. 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.”

The state data center’s staff also highlighted Kentucky’s level of health insurance coverage and educational attainment from the ACS 2015 one-year estimates.

In 2015, the uninsured rate in Kentucky was 6 percent, a decrease from the 2014 rate of 8.5 percent and the 2013 rate of 14.3 percent. The 8.3 percentage point decrease in the uninsured rate between 2013 and 2015 is one of the largest among all 50 states. Ruther attributed the decrease to access to health care from the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid.

Kentucky is one of only four states with at least an 8 percentage point drop in the uninsured since 2013, along with California, West Virginia and Nevada.,

Bailey of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy said in a statement, “These numbers are another piece of evidence that Kentucky is a national leader in health coverage, which isn’t just a ranking, it’s changing people’s lives.”

Between 2014 and 2015, the percentage of the population 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased 1.1 percentage points in Kentucky, to 23.3 percent in 2015, from 22.2 percent in 2014, the Kentucky State Data Center noted.

Fayette County continues to have the highest percentage of college graduates, with 41.6 percent of the population, age 25 or older, holding a college degree. In Jefferson County, the percentage rose to 33.6 percent from 31.6 percent.

Matt Berry, director of strategy and impact at 55,000 Degrees in Louisville, said in an interview, “We’re really happy to see a jump like this in the educational attainment rate, particularly at the bachelor’s level.”

Through its own research, the organization reported a 2.4 percentage point increase in 2015 for those 25 to 64 years old holding a bachelor’s degree from 2014, and a 3 percentage point climb for those in that age bracket holding an associate degree or higher.