Census NJ snapshot: More insured, fewer poor, but income stalls
New Census Bureau estimates for 2018 show a mixed bag for New Jersey.
To borrow a phrase from Gov. Phil Murphy, the state seems to have gotten a bit fairer, with fewer people in poverty or without health-care coverage. But it may not have gotten stronger, as the median household income was essentially stagnant.
The state’s median household income was basically unchanged in 2018 at $81,740. That’s down $23 from a year earlier, once the 2017 figure is adjusted for inflation. It remains the second-highest state in the country behind Maryland, although Washington, D.C., actually ranks first.
The number of New Jerseyans with incomes below the poverty line declined by more than 50,000, nearly 6%, in 2018. It’s now estimated at around 832,000 people, or 9.5% of the population; it was estimated at nearly 883,000, around 10%, in 2017.
The rate of people without health insurance dropped from 7.7% to 7.4% last year. Nationally, the uninsured rate went up 0.2%, to 8.9%, and New Jersey was one of just four states where there was a clear decrease in the number of people without health insurance.
Ray Castro, health policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said the 33,000 decrease in the number of New Jerseyans without health insurance is “very positive.”
“The reason why this happened is partly because the economy. Over 90% who are employed have insurance, so that has certainly helped,” he said.
Castro said New Jersey has also benefited by steps the state took to combat what he calls federal “sabotage of the Affordable Care Act,” such as establishing its own individual mandate, spending state money on outreach and creating a reinsurance program.
Louisiana, New York and Wyoming joined New Jersey as showing clear decreases in the number of residents without health insurance last year. Eleven other states also appeared to be down, but by small enough amounts that the estimates aren’t statistically significant.
“We have a long way to go. We still have 650,000 New Jerseyans who are uninsured, and about half of them are very low income,” Castro said.
For instance, Castro, said, the estimates indicate the number of uninsured children in the state increased by 2,000, reaching 80,000.
“And we have New Jersey FamilyCare,” he said. “There really shouldn’t be any child that is uninsured in our state.”
Castro said the FamilyCare program can be improved in a number of ways, including coverage of all immigrant children regardless of whether their families are legal residents.