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Pre-Pandemic Census Bureau Data Illustrates Persistent Systemic Inequities Later Compounded by COVID-19

This week, the United States Census Bureau released the results of the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) – the premier source of population data – on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States. The ACS data along with the Current Population Survey (CPS), reflect worsening trends even before the pandemic. Collection of income and poverty data were impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, and do not fully capture the scale of increasingly deteriorating conditions.

Following the release of this new Census report, Erin Hemlin, Health Policy and Advocacy Director for Young Invincibles issued the following statement:

“This week’s news is a sobering reminder of the entrenched racial and economic inequities that have fueled the disparate impacts of the ongoing economic recession and COVID-19 global pandemic. Recently released 2019 Census data illustrates persistent disparities across income, poverty, and health care coverage among children, young people, immigrants, and people of color. These systemic inequities are producing devastating long-term social, health, and economic repercussions.

The overall uninsured rate has increased for a third consecutive year, and once again, young people are the least likely to have health coverage. The 14.9 percent of 19-25-year-olds who are uninsured are exceeded only by their 26-34-year-old peers, 16.1 percent of whom lacked health insurance in 2019. According to the CPS, 13.2 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 25 live in households below the poverty line. In 2019, 26.4 percent of Black children and 20.9 percent of Latinx children lived in households below the poverty line.

The decline in health coverage for the third year in a row comes after six years of improvements. This is yet more evidence that this administration’s policies to undermine the Affordable Care Act and restrict Medicaid are resulting in coverage losses.

While this new pre-pandemic insurance data illustrates a worsening trend, these numbers have almost certainly gotten worse as the COVID-19 crisis has intensified, particularly given how many young people were also experiencing poverty in 2019, and the pandemic’s impact on young workers. Despite these devastating trends, lawmakers and the administration have not prioritized health coverage in their response to the pandemic. It is critical that leaders at the state and national levels utilize all policy options available to them to reverse these alarming trends.”