Black, Hispanic and American Indian households in Minnesota made modest economic gains last year, but remain far behind whites and Asians, according to new census data released this week.

Median household income for all households in the state is up 5 percent in the last four years, and at nearly $65,600, is above its pre-recession level after adjusting for inflation, data from the 2016 American Community Survey shows. 

The American Community Survey is sent out annually to about 3.5 million households in the U.S. 

In the Twin Cities, the median household income is even higher, at about $73,000, but the gap between whites and minorities is also wider. White households make, on average, more than $40,000 more than black households.

Susan Brower, Minnesota’s state demographer, said her first look at the data’s high-level economic indicators showed improvements across the board in Minnesota, but that some racial or ethnic groups have taken longer to recover from the recession.

“It was kind of a slower recovery for Minnesota’s Latino and black populations, in particular,” Brower said. “You see higher rates of unemployment holding on for longer. You see the median household income depressed for longer than it was for white Minnesotans. But across all of those indicators, there’s modest improvement.”

One of the reasons black household income is much lower than other groups is because more than 37 percent are single-person households. Overall in the metro, 30 percent of all households consist of a single person. This is a growing trend, largely due to elderly choosing to stay in their homes even after losing their spouse. Brower noted that this makes the median household income metric more problematic with each passing year.

Median family income, which is calculated for households with two or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption, eliminates those single-person households. That metric shows a 7 percent increase the past four years for Twin Cities' black families, after adjusting for inflation. But they remain far behind other groups, most likely due to fewer dual-earner households.

This income news is from the first batch of data from the 2016 American Community Survey, which covers an enormous array of topics. We picked a few other things to highlight, as well.

Diversity in the Twin Cities continues its upward march. The overall metro area – which the federal government defines as stretching across 16 counties – is now 24 percent non-white. But most of that diversity is in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where more than one-third are non-white.

The younger generations show that diversity will grow exponentially. About 36 percent of metro area children under age 15 are non-white, compared to just eight percent of those age 65 and older.


Two points of pride for the Twin Cities (and Minnesota as a whole)  – education and homeownership – are going in opposite directions.

The share of metro area adults, age 25 and older, with a bachelor’s degree or higher has been going up and is now at 40 percent. Among the youngest adults, it’s over 45 percent. Racial disparities remain wide, however.

Homeownership is going down. Last year about 69 percent of households in the Twin Cities were owners, down from pre-recession levels that were around 75 percent.

Some good news on the housing front, though, is that the share of households spending too much on their mortgage, rent and other housing costs has dropped significantly in recent years. Among owners, 19 percent pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs. For renters, it's 44 percent.

On the work front, we found an interesting nugget showing 6 percent of Twin Cities workers regularly work from home, a statistically significant increase from 5 percent in 2012.

That’s slightly higher than the national average, but there are some metros – like Boulder, Colo. – that have a rate twice as high. Women and workers age 65 and older are more likely to work from home.

But there’s no change for the others who trudge off to a workplace. They are still predominantly driving alone (78 percent), and taking, on average, 25 minutes to commute. These statistics have been largely unchanged for many years.

If we just look at Hennepin and Ramsey counties, though, the picture is a little different, with more people finding other means for getting to work.

The American Community Survey is the primary tool used by the U.S. Census Bureau to gather demographic, economic, social and other characteristics of the nation’s population. The data generated from the results are used by government units, researchers and others.

The data released this week is only for geographic areas with 65,000 or more residents. Data on smaller areas will be released later this year.