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September 15, 2016

Economic Progress; Opportunities to Do Even Better

Most Virginians are doing better than they were a few years ago, according to data released today by the Census Bureau. The median household income rose 2 percent in 2015 to $66,262, after adjusting for inflation. And 44,000 fewer Virginians have incomes that are below the poverty line, which is less than $24,257 for a family of four. The improvement in incomes was slightly slower than those of the United States as a whole, which saw a 4 percent increase in median household incomes and, like Virginia, a 5 percent decline in the poverty rate.  Virginia remains the 9th highest income state in the country.

Challenges remain, however, and more could be done to solve them. Although many Virginians had higher incomes in 2015 than in 2014, after adjusting for inflation typical household incomes remain below 2007 levels, the last year before the recession hit. And many Virginians are struggling with high housing costs, with 1 in 5 Virginia renters paying more than half their income on rent.

Taking a closer look at incomes across Virginia shows that there’s not just one Virginia story. While the statewide median household income is more than $10,000 a year higher than in the country as a whole, in the Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Staunton metro areas typical household income is lower than in the U.S. as a whole. In some of Virginia’s smaller metro areas, incomes hover at only about half those in the Washington, DC metro area.

In addition to regional variation, sharp differences remain by race. Households headed by Black or African-American Virginians typically have just 62 cents of income for every dollar of income in households headed by non-Hispanic white Virginians. Households headed by Hispanic or Latino Virginians typically have 88 cents in income for every dollar in non-Hispanic white-headed households.

Today’s Census data shows that in many ways Virginia’s economy is strong and many families are thriving. The challenge remains: How does Virginia make sure every corner of the state and every child has access to top-quality schools, health care, and the modern infrastructure that supports innovation and economic growth?

Economic Opportunity

Levi Goren

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