economic-justice-protest

(Photo: Unarmed Civilian / flickr)

Poverty is down, median income is up and health coverage expanded last year. These gains are felt across all racial, ethnic, gender and age groups in the U.S. The gender pay gap, income inequality, unemployment rates – all decreasing. Both the poor and those with middle incomes saw economic gains in 2015, according to new U.S. Census data. And the economy even added more than 2.6 million jobs last year.

Sounds like cause for celebration, doesn’t it? But don’t break out the bubbly just yet. Although these figures are heartening, especially after so many years of increasing hardship in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, the news appears much better than it really is.

Forty-three million people still live in poverty in the U.S., including 14.5 million children.According to an analysis of the U.S. Census data, black women still take home just 63 cents compared to a white man’s dollar, and Latinas make a measly 54 cents per dollar.

In 2015, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, the gap in hourly wage pay between white and black workers widened to nearly 27 percent, the widest racial pay gap in 40 years. Further, the racial wealth gap is the highest it’s been in 30 years. Meanwhile, the richest Americans’ wealth has grown by an average of 736 percent. That’s 10 times the rate of wealth growth for the Latinos, and nearly 30 times the rate of growth for the black population, says a report by the Institute for Policy Studies. IPS’ analysis further finds that by the year 2043, that huge chasm in wealth between white people and black and Latino people will double if we don’t do something to change it. And to squeeze the last bit of helium out of that quickly deflating balloon celebrating new census data – median income for all but the richest 5 percent of Americans is still below pre-recession rates.

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Karen Dolan is the director of the Criminalization of Poverty project at the Institute for Policy Studies.