2015 was a good year for household incomes in MN – unless you're black

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Most Minnesotans saw a generous bump in their household incomes last year – but that didn't stop the inequality gap from getting even wider, with black residents getting left behind.

Census Bureau statistics released Tuesday revealed a record rise in U.S. household incomes last year – up 5.2 percent – while the country recorded the biggest drop in poverty since 1999, down 1.3 percent.

State figures released by the American Community Survey on Thursday reveal Minnesota's rise wasn't quite as big – 3.2 percent – but a median household income of $63,488 (up from $60,828 in 2014) is well above the national average of $56,516.

It still represents the largest yearly increase in median incomes in the last 10 years and now Minnesota's earnings are back at pre-recession levels.

Alarm bells are ringing at legislative level however, because the figures reveal that the income rise seen last year predominantly benefited every racial group except African Americans.

Here's a look at the median income based on race:

  • White: $66,413 in 2015, up from $63,127 in 2014 (up 5.2 percent).
  • American Indian/Alaska native: $36,863 in 2015, up from $32,161 in 2014 (up 14.6 percent)
  • Hispanic/Latino: $43,380 in 2015, up from $41,674 in 2014 (up 4.09 percent)
  • Asian: $72,344 in 2015, up from 65,575 in 2014 (up 10.3 percent)
  • Black: $30,306 in 2015, up from $29,873 in 2014 (up 1.45 percent).

In a statement to media, as reported by the Star Tribune, Gov. Mark Dayton referred to positive aspects of Thursday's data – which included a 1.3 percent decrease in people living below the poverty line – but said "disparities of household incomes between white Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color continued to persist at unacceptable levels."

Funding has been set aside in the latest state budget round to reduce the inequality gap in Minnesota, in an effort to improve access to jobs, training and help for minority owned-businesses.

Since the height of the financial crisis in 2009, black Minnesotans have seen below-inflation growth of their incomes, rising from just $28,913 to $30,306 during that time, according to ACS data.

If it were to have followed inflation, their income in 2015 would have been just under $32,000 last year.

White and Asian Minnesotans meanwhile have seen significant increases in median income between 2009-15, with white Minnesotans seeing their earnings rise by more than $8,000 in that time. Incomes for Asian Minnesotans went up more than $12,000.

More people in work

Thursday's figures also revealed that the number of people of either sex aged 16-64 in work rose from 62.7 to 63.7 percent in 2015.

People aged 45-64 have the largest median income with $77,108, but that's not far ahead of the 25-44 age range, where the average income is $71,122.

Older people aged 65 and over have an average income of $42,316, while 15-24 year old households earn $34,983 on average.

Married couples had a median income of $91,260, while single men living alone earned $36,033, compared to single women living alone, who earned $27,526 on average.

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