Health coverage trends set the Twin Cities apart, census finds.
If 2010 and 2011 represented the bottoming out of the last economic recession, then data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2012 indicate that Minnesota is climbing out of that economic morass.
Minnesota was one of two states with a significant decline in poverty last year, though the drop was small, and the Twin Cities was the only major metro area with a noteworthy increase in the number of residents under 65 with private health insurance. That suggests that more working-age adults either had jobs with health benefits or the means to afford coverage.
Minnesota’s poverty rate declined from 11.9 percent of the state population in 2011 to 11.4 percent in 2012 — which means an estimated 23,000 fewer people were impoverished last year — while the Twin Cities’ median household income rose from $64,712 to $66,282.
“We’ve seen this leveling off of income [in past years]. We’ve seen poverty increase,” said Susan Brower, the Minnesota state demographer. “This is the first year where we’ve measured some improvement year over year. So that’s a really hopeful sign.”
The improving economic figures, contained in the 2012 American Community Survey, contrast with very modest shifts in Minnesota’s social and demographic fabric.
The state is slowly getting older: 13.6 percent of the population was 65 or older last year, compared with 12.9 percent only two years earlier.
And it is slowly getting more diverse. Only 85.5 percent of the population was white in 2012, compared with 86.1 percent in 2010.
The average size of households remained steady at 2.5, but Brower said she expects that to continue its decadeslong decline as the state ages and more seniors live on their own without children. Young adults also might be moving out of their parents’ homes more now that the employment outlook is improving.
As always, the sample size of the annual survey presented confounding conclusions.
While household income increased in the metro area, for example, Minnesota’s overall increase — from $58,109 in 2011 to $58,906 in 2012 — wasn’t enough to exceed the survey’s statistical margin of error.
Brower said there was a remarkable decline in the rate of poverty among American Indians — from 40 percent to 32 percent — a decline not matched in other minority groups. She said she suspected that was due to the small sample size of American Indians surveyed in 2012, though.
Brower said there was little progress last year in addressing racial and ethnic disparities when it comes to income, poverty and health insurance of minority groups in the state.
The improving health insurance numbers in Minnesota come as the state is preparing for the launch of the MNsure health insurance exchange, which was created under the federal Affordable Care Act to help uninsured Americans gain coverage. But analysts said the improving numbers probably reflect an earlier provision of federal law that as of 2010 allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans.
The rate of adults aged 18 to 24 without health insurance dropped from 20.5 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in Minnesota last year, according to the census survey data.
“All those kids are going on their parents’ plans,” said Lynn Blewett, a University of Minnesota expert in health trends.
While that federal reform affected all states, Blewett said Minnesota benefited more because a greater share of its working-age parents already had private insurance. So their young adult children had more opportunities to fall back on their parents’ coverage.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744