As a result, the rate takes into account the effects of some government benefits, such as unemployment compensation. It does not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits and food stamps.
David Johnson, the chief of the Census Bureau’s household economics division, estimated that unemployment benefits helped keep 1.7 million people out of poverty.
If non-cash government aid were counted in the official formula, the earned income tax credit would have lifted another 5.5 million people above the poverty threshold. Counting food stamps would have boosted 4 million people, lowering the poverty rate to 13.7 percent.
The slight dip in Americans without health coverage meant 48 million people were without insurance. The drop was due mostly to increases in government coverage, such as Medicaid and Medicare. The number of people covered by employer-provided health insurance remained flat.
The decline in the uninsured was modest compared to a bigger drop in 2011, which occurred due to increased coverage for young adults under the new health care law.
Because the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act don’t take effect until 2014, the latest census numbers offer a baseline number of uninsured by which increased coverage and effectiveness of the law will be measured. Many conservative Republicans remain committed to repealing the law.
Starting next year, the government will offer tax credits for people without access to job-based health insurance to buy private coverage through new markets, called exchanges, in each state. Open enrollment starts Oct 1. The new health care law also expands Medicaid to cover millions more low-income people, but so far only 24 states plus Washington, D.C., have gone along with the expansion.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by next year, the health law will reduce the number of uninsured in the U.S. by about 25 percent. By 2017, it is projected that 92 percent of eligible Americans will have health insurance, a 10 percentage point increase from today’s level.
Other census findings:
—Poverty remained largely unchanged across race and ethnic groups. Blacks had the highest rate at 27.2 percent, compared to 25.6 percent for Hispanics and 11.7 percent for Asian-Americans. Whites had a rate of 9.7 percent.
—Child poverty stood at 21.8 percent.
—Poverty among people 65 and older was basically unchanged at 9.1 percent, after hitting a record low of 8.9 percent in 2009.