States Ranked on Pocketbook Issues
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
Texans are more likely than citizens in any other state to be living without health insurance. Women in Wyoming have the least earning power compared to men, and more Mississippians on average live in poverty than anywhere in the country.
Those developments are part of a snapshot of Americans' economic situation released by the Census Bureau Aug. 29. The new data, based on annual surveys the Census Bureau conducts between its once-a-decade headcount, include state-by-state and, in some cases, county-by-county information on wages, poverty and demographics.
With a quarter of its population lacking health insurance, Texas held on to the dubious distinction as the state with highest rate of uninsured residents in the country, followed by New Mexico, where 21 percent of residents had no coverage.
On the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota kept its uninsured population at 8.7 percent, the lowest in the country. Hawaii, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine and New Hampshire - in that order - rounded out the top of the list of states with the lowest rates of uninsured.
Nationally, the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey counted an additional 1.3 million Americans without health insurance coverage during 2005. That brings the total number of those without coverage to 46.6 million and marks the fifth consecutive year of increases in the number of uninsured.
At the state level, Delaware, Florida and South Carolina experienced increases in the percentage of uninsured residents for at least a second straight year in 2005. Meanwhile, Idaho and New York decreased the size of their uninsured population two years running, according to the Census data.
Other states that saw a significant spike in their uninsured rates were Arizona, California, Georgia, Utah and Vermont. Meanwhile, Iowa reduced its already low level of uninsured residents.
The data also show that three Northeastern states that recently enacted laws designed to provide coverage for nearly all of their populations are already in better shape than most of the country. In 2005, Massachusetts had an uninsured rate of 10.7 percent, Maine 10.4 percent and Vermont 10.7 percent.
Other information released by the Census reveals disparities in income between states, between areas within states and even between women and men.
New Jersey residents reported the highest household income in the country when surveyed in 2005. The average annual income for households in the Garden State was $61,672 compared to an average of $32,938 in Mississippi, which came in last.
Mississippi also had the highest poverty rate in the nation, followed by Louisiana. Because the poverty data cover the entire calendar year of 2005, it doesn't fully measure the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast last August, Census officials noted.
While more than 21 percent of Mississippians live in poverty, only 7.5 percent of New Hampshire residents made less than the federal poverty level.
In the District of Columbia, women earned 91.4 percent as much as men, the highest mark in the country. In Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland and Texas women earned at least 80 percent of what men made.
Wyoming had the lowest female-to-male earning ratio. There, women's salary averaged 61 percent of men's.
The Census Bureau's count of the uninsured has come under fire in recent years, as groups such as the Urban Institute estimated that the Census' number of uninsured could be as much as 4 million too high.
But with its yearly benchmarks, the bureau's statistics have become a starting point for many discussions on the uninsured. David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, stood by the agency's estimates Tuesday.
"We're fully confident that the numbers are the best possible that we can produce and represent the accurate trends over time," he said.