R.I. incomes 19th in U.S., but racial gaps persist

As the median household income hits $58,073, disparities are wide among white, black, Latino and Asian households.

By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer

Last week’s release of data by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that Rhode Island’s 2015 median household income stood in the middle of the pack — at $58,073 in 19th place among the states — with figures ranging from $75,487 in Maryland to $40,593 in Mississippi.

Overall, middle-class Americans and the poor experienced their best year of economic growth in decades in 2015 as median household income, adjusted for inflation, rose to $56,516, from $53,700 in 2014. That 5.2-percent increase was the largest since the bureau started tracking the statistic in 1967.

In Rhode Island, growth was even more robust: 5.6 percent.

But there was wide disparity in Rhode Island among races in the income figures contained in the American Community Survey. While white households had a median income of $62,305, the figure for black households was $36,719, for Latino households was $35,455 and for Asian households was $56,516.

The survey also measured poverty rates. Families and individuals are considered to be living in poverty if their income is below a certain threshold — for a family of four in 2015, it was $24,000.

In Rhode Island, 13.9 percent of people were living in poverty last year, down from 14.3 percent in 2014 — but again, with marked differences among races. The 2015 figure for white people was 10.9 percent, while the figure for black people was 24.4 percent, for Latinos was 29.5 percent and for Asians was 17.4 percent.

Douglas Hall, director of economic and fiscal policy at the Providence-based Economic Progress Institute, said the disparities between races have consistently been present in rates of unemployment, wages and poverty….