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2015 American Community Survey

Shape of Minnesota set among charts and graph collage

The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) is the nation's most comprehensive survey. It provides a multitude of statistics that measure the social, economic and housing conditions of U.S. communities, including data on employment, income, poverty, and health insurance. The Census Bureau released new 2015 ACS data for the nation, all 50 states, and geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more on September 15, 2016.

Key Findings for Minnesota in 2015 

Five years after unemployment peaked in Minnesota during the Great Recession, many Minnesotans found firmer economic footing in 2015. Overall, Minnesotans ages 16-64 were more likely be working, working full-time,1 and earning higher wages and salaries in 2015 than in 2014, according the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), released today.

Minnesotans’ robust participation in a labor force with more employment opportunities also raised real household incomes, and contributed to lower poverty compared to the prior year. The share of workers (ages 16-64) working full-time also increased from 62.7% and 63.7%, and rose for both men and women. 

“This exceptionally strong evidence of economic improvements in just one year is heartening,” said Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower, who analyzed the data with her staff at the MN State Demographic Center.

The median (midpoint) income for all Minnesota households (regardless of size) rose nearly $2,000 in real terms2 to $63,500 in 2015, up from $61,600 the prior year. Rising incomes appeared to ease some cost burdens — a smaller percentage of both renters and homeowners reported they paid more than 35% of their income toward housing costs.  

Poverty fell from 11.5% to 10.2% between 2014 and 2015, with about 65,000 fewer Minnesotans living in poverty. These economic improvements had broad reach, with reductions in the number and/or the prevalence of poverty for children under 18, working-age people, older adults, and Minnesotans who identify as American Indian, Black, or non-Hispanic White.3 However, 546,000 Minnesotans, including 165,000 children, still had family incomes below the official poverty threshold in 2015.4     

Last year’s 2014 ACS data indicated a troubling decline in median household income for Black households in Minnesota.5 In 2015, while median incomes rose for all Minnesotans, the one-year difference in household income for most race groups, including Black households, was statistically unchanged.  

The latest data shows signs of economic progress for Black Minnesotans in 2015.  In 2015, the share of Black residents (ages 16-64) who were working rose to 66%, up 3 percentage points from 2014 (and 9 percentage points higher than 2010).  About 8,000 more Black residents (16-64) were employed in 2015 compared to the prior year, reducing the numbers who were unemployed along with those not participating in the labor force. Furthermore, the number of Black workers with full-time employment grew, while numbers of those with part-time and/or part-year employment held steady. About 13,000 fewer Black Minnesotans lived in poverty in 2015 than 2014, with a poverty rate of 32%, the lowest rate observed in the last six years.

 Although the latest data showed declines in poverty and unemployment for some populations of Color, they continue to be far more likely to experience economic hardship than non-Hispanic White Minnesotans. (See table below.)

Select 2015 findings by racial and ethnic group, Minnesota

Population group

Percent employed (among all persons 16+)

Unemployment rate (among ages 16+ in the labor force) Median household income (all households, regardless of size)  Percent in poverty (all ages)  Percent of children in poverty (ages 0-17)
All Minnesotans 67% 4% $63,500 10% 13%
American Indian 50% 13% $36,900 25% 28%
Asian 66% 6% $72,300 16% 23%
Black/African American 63% 10% $30,300 32% 39%
Hispanic (of any race) 71% 7% $43,400 21% 26%
Two or more races 67% 8% $51,900 15% 16%
White, non-Hispanic 67% 3% $67,000 7% 7%

The data underscored that the composition of Minnesota’s potential labor force continues to change. Though Minnesota’s typical working-age (16-64) population has grown slowly in recent years, the number and percent of non-Hispanic Whites in that group has declined, while people who identify as other races or Hispanic has swelled.  

“This gives added urgency to the work of increasing opportunities and improving equity for our fast-growing populations of Color,” said Brower. “Numerous indicators reveal that populations of color experience very different opportunities and outcomes in our stake. We have to continue to build on these positive economic trends for Minnesotans of Color, as well as all Minnesotans, to strengthen our families, communities, and the state as a whole.”

Links to popular 2015 data tables for Minnesota


Notes regarding text and table:

1 Full-time employment is defined as working 35 hours or more per week, and year-round (50 or more weeks per year).
2 “Real” mean the dollars have been inflation-adjusted to have equal earning power across years. All dollar amounts are presented in 2015 dollars.
3 The poverty rate for Asian and Hispanic Minnesotans was statistically unchanged.
4 The annual federal poverty thresholds vary by household size and composition. In 2015, the poverty threshold (line) for 2 parents and 2 children was about $24,300. Click for more thresholds.  
5 This change was statistically significant at the 90% confidence level, but not at the 95% or 99% confidence level, so we cannot say with certainty that the change was not the result of sampling error. For more on this, see our November 2015 blog.

Error margins exist around data points, but are not shown. Some numbers are rounded. All findings noted above are statistically significant at the 90% confidence level or higher. All race groups refer to individuals identifying as that race “alone,” except for the multiracial group. The data from the 2015 ACS estimates was collected in surveys completed between January and December 2015. Income data reflects income received during the past 12 months from the time of the survey. More timely surveys have shown continued economic improvements for Minnesota, but the ACS—with a larger sample than any federal or state survey—uniquely allows for investigation into the outcomes for smaller geographies and smaller subgroups.

The ongoing, nationwide American Community Survey provides a multitude of valuable statistics that measure the social, economic and housing conditions of U.S. communities. More than 40 topics are available with the release, such as educational attainment, housing, employment, commuting, language spoken at home, nativity, ancestry and selected monthly homeowner costs. Additional data is available through the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder tool at:

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