The U.S. Census released more new data today indicating that the economic recovery continues to boost Minnesotans’ incomes. But the strides Minnesota has made in prosperity isn’t reaching all Minnesotans. Communities of color, workers earning lower wages, and others who face barriers to work are being left out of the broader economy’s success.
Minnesota continues to outperform the national figures in terms of economic well-being. In 2017, the income of the median Minnesota household increased to $68,388, more than $8,000 above the national level. The share of Minnesotans living in poverty, 9.5 percent, is also well below the national figure of 13.4. Today’s figures show how far Minnesotans have come since just after the Great Recession in 2011, when the median household income was $62,210 in today’s dollars.
Minnesota’s poverty rate is fourth lowest in the nation. Minnesota’s higher incomes and lower poverty come in part because of our investments in policies that lift up more Minnesotans and allow them to thrive in today’s economy. These policies include boosting the income of workers and families struggling to make ends meet through the Working Family Tax Credit, expanding opportunities for affordable health care through Medicaid and MinnesotaCare, and increasing Minnesota’s minimum wage. However, more needs to be done to break down barriers and make sure all Minnesotans, no matter their race or ethnicity, can participate in Minnesota’s economic prosperity.
This year’s Census data shows that Minnesotans of color are more likely to be left out of the economic gains that the topline numbers show. Communities of color face systemic barriers that make it harder to get ahead. In many communities of color, parents have limited access to the affordable child care they need to work, or reliable transportation to get to work on time or even get groceries back home. The historical roots of these barriers, such as restricting people of color to live in particular geographic areas and then failing to invest in those neighborhoods, means it’s all the more important to address these barriers and ensure all Minnesotans have the ability to succeed.
The Census data reflects these structural challenges: while 9.5 percent of Minnesotans lived below the federal poverty line in 2017, Minnesotans of color experienced poverty at much higher rates. One in four Black Minnesotans had incomes below the poverty line; for a family of four with two children that means living on less than $24,858. But only one in 15 white, non-Hispanic Minnesotans faced that same situation, highlighting the fact that some in our state don’t have the same opportunities to succeed.
The good news is that there are policies that can help more Minnesotans share in our state’s economic success. Investments in policies that break down the structural barriers many communities of color face and boost the incomes of everyday Minnesotans will move our state toward greater economic prosperity.