Minority Business Fair Returns To Fourth Street Live Saturday, Sep 24 2016 

Rick Wallace rings up a string of customers, who buy everything from chips to cookies to yogurt, on a bustling Wednesday at Broadway Market.

He’s owned the corner store at Fourth and Broadway for about two-and-a-half years. He also owns Savory Restaurant, a breakfast and lunch eatery that opened at the beginning of the year. Wallace’s parents were entrepreneurs in New York, and he said it felt natural for him to eventually own his own business as well.

His biggest struggles right now are finding quality employees and funding for other projects he’d like to pursue.

“I feel like Louisville has great opportunities here,” he said. “There’s other stuff I’d love to do if I can get certain resources to move on to the next project.”

He could find the help he’s looking for at the Louisville’s Diverse Business Fair at Fourth Street Live next month. The event is meant to connect businesses — led by people of color and women — to other businesses and resources in the Louisville region.

District 4 Metro Councilman David Tandy, whose district includes Fourth Street Live, said it’s a good way for minority-owned businesses to expand their networks.

“I think the biggest obstacle for minority-owned or women-owned businesses is simply access to contacts, access to decision-makers,” he said.

Tandy hopes the fair could lead the way to expanding the region’s business network to include more ventures owned by women and people of color.

The Elephant in the Room

Despite hosting this event aimed to bridge connections across the city, Fourth Street Live has an history of alleged racism, particularly against black patrons. The business and entertainment strip, owned by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, has been accused of discrimination by employees and of racially profiling black patrons. Many feel the company enforces a dress code — which includes a ban on sagging jeans — that targets young black men.

In recent years, there have been a string of recent instances of African-American men being kicked out of or arrested at Fourth Street Live establishments.

JCTC instructor Shelton McElroy filed a lawsuit against the establishment after being kicked out of Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon in 2014. Former University of Louisville basketball player Jason Osborne was arrested there for alleged criminal trespassing in 2013. And Andre Mulligan filed a lawsuit after claiming Maker’s Mark Bourbon Lounge refused to host a party upon finding out that all the attendees would be black. 

Tandy said holding the fair at Fourth Street Live again this year is a chance for Cordish to prove its readiness to be apart of the entire community.

“We’ve continuously had a dialogue and a need for saying, ‘I’d rather see a sermon than hear a sermon any day,’” he said. “So the way that businesses show that they’re committed to diversity inclusion is where they spend their dollars and how they engage with the public.”

Holding a business fair targeted at diverse audiences at a location where incidents of alleged discrimination occurred is not lost on Fourth Street Live president Ed Hartless.

“We’re sensitive to the context,” said Hartless, who’s served as president since early 2016. “I don’t know if the business fair has much relevance to the allegations. We’re doing this strictly to work with the community on events.”

Fourth Street Live workers, including security, housekeeping and front office staff attend a diversity training at least once a year. Tenants and other third-party establishments are also encouraged to attend the free trainings, however they’re not mandatory.

Hartless has worked for Cordish in other locations in the past and said the company has always been a leader in promoting inclusiveness.

“But I think in the past maybe we weren’t as selective of the operators that came in,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have operators that understand priorities and making sure that we’re inclusive.” 

The 2nd Annual Louisville Metro Diverse Business Fair will take place Tuesday, Oct. 25 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Tavern at Fourth Street Live.

A Nation Engaged: Voices From The Smoketown GetDown Friday, Sep 23 2016 

This week, we’re participating in a national week of conversation along with other NPR member stations called A Nation Engaged. It’s a coordinated conversation around a topic, and the goal is to get a wide variety of voices answering the same question.

We’re asking this question: What can we do to create economic opportunities for more Americans?

A Nation EngagedNPR | wfpl.org

Earlier this week, we heard from people attending the Dixie Area Business Expo and recruiters at a career fair organized by the workforce agency KentuckianaWorks. This time around, we went to the Smoketown GetDown, a block party organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

Casey Hamm, board member of the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association: “Just whenever I think about economic opportunity, my mind typically tends to go towards, like, people who are held down by the system.”

Trinidad Jackson, researcher: “What do we have to do in order to facilitate equity for economic opportunity. Ans in order to address equity, you gotta look at the root cause of inequity. That’s historical and that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Smoketown GetDownRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Smoketown GetDown

Robert Bell, vice president of the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association: “Infrastructure of course means the ground we stand on. It means social infrastructure, it means economic infrastructure and it means cultural infrastructure.”

Smoketown GetDownRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Smoketown GetDown

Kevin Cowherd, business consultant at Humana: “If we can really think about how to bring more money into Louisville or into our city, the next step after that is how do we divide that money, and those jobs and those opportunities evenly and appropriately.”

River City Drum Corp.Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

River City Drum Corp.

Ashley Carter, owner of The Mahogany Salon: “Creating economic opportunites for one another is through caring and showing love to one another.”

Bevin Joins Lawsuit Challenging New Overtime Pay Rule Wednesday, Sep 21 2016 

Gov. Bevin has added Kentucky to a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over a new rule that makes more people eligible to receive overtime pay.

Starting in December, the new policy will require employers to pay overtime to people who make up to $47,476 a year ($913 per week). Currently employers only have to pay overtime to people who make up to $23,660 a year.

Bevin opposes the rule, saying it would increase employment costs for the state and private employers.

“The result of this unfunded mandate by the federal government would be to force many private sector employers to lay off workers,” Bevin said. “Once again, the Obama administration is attempting to require compliance with non-legally binding edicts that should instead be decided at the state and local level.”

The U.S. Labor Department started finalizing the rule in May, saying that it would put more money into the hands of the middle class, or give them more free time.

An estimated 4 million people would be affected.

Bevin has joined a coalition of 20 other states, led by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, challenging the rule.

In the lawsuit, the states argue that the new policy “infringes upon state sovereignty and federalism by dictating the wages that States must pay to those whom they employ in order to carry out their governmental functions, what hours those persons will work, and what compensation will be provided where these employees may be called upon to work overtime.”

The lawsuit states that Kentucky has about 1,600 state workers that would be newly eligible for overtime pay as a result of the rule.

The rule is also opposed by Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who said that it would encourage employers to cut worker hours and provide fewer benefits.

The other states involved in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Bevin has joined other multi-state lawsuits challenging Obama administration rules dealing with transgender bathroom guidelines and transgender health protections.

A Nation Engaged: Recruiters Talk Job Opportunities In Louisville Wednesday, Sep 21 2016 

This week, we’re participating in a national week of conversation along with other NPR Member stations called A Nation Engaged. It’s a coordinated conversation around a topic, and the goal is to get a wide variety of voices answering the same question.

A Nation EngagedNPR | wfpl.org

We’re asking this question: “What can we do to create economic opportunities for more Americans?” 

Earlier this week, we heard from people attending the Dixie Area Business Expo, where independent businesses in South Louisville were showcased. You can listen to what those folks had to say here.

This time around, we visited a career fair organized by the workforce agency KentuckianaWorks. Here’s what recruiters there had to say about jobs and the economy in Louisville.

 

Natasha Williams (center) and co-workers recruiting for school bus driversRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Natasha Williams (center) and co-workers recruiting for school bus drivers

Natasha Williams: “I think jobs in Louisville are plentiful. There are a lot out there. Everyone’s hiring we just need people to want to fill those jobs and work.”

 

Derick Goodwin, recruiter at FanaticsRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Derick Goodwin, recruiter at Fanatics

Derick Goodwin: “Well, we’re gonna be hiring; bringing on about 400 people. So we’re starting to get ahead of that a little bit. Everybody’s going to be competing for workers this year. A lot of people that you see in this fair, we’re all competing for the same demographic. I say it’s good. I have to say it’s good. Go Obama.”

 

Stephanie Schell, recruiter at KrogerRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Stephanie Schell, recruiter at Kroger

Stephanie Schell: “I know the economy is on the upswing, or so it feels. Which is a great thing but it does make it a lot harder to hire.”

 

Stallydia Mucker (right) with Mike Desurne of Drivers SelectRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Stallydia Mucker (right) with Mike Desurne of Drivers Select

Stallydia Mucker: “Today, we’re actually doing the application, the second part of the application on the computer and the interview right here. And I’ll say in probably about a week, they’re working.”

 

Tony Cephus, of TransCentra Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Tony Cephus, of TransCentra

Tony Cephus: “You have to have transferable skills. Or be willing to transfer into other opportunities to stay employed. If you come with a willing mind and attitude and wanting to work — we’ll put you to work. Real easy; real simple.”

Here’s Why You May Want A College Degree, Even To Be A Bartender Tuesday, Sep 20 2016 

Along with the gender and racial wage gap, income disparities may also exist within the same profession. And the education divide may be a factor.

If you’re a bartender, for example, with a Bachelor’s degree — a job that doesn’t require it — you still might earn more than a bartender without a degree. That’s according to Dewayne Matthews, vice president of strategy development at Lumina Foundation, an organization seeking to increase the number of Americans with a post-secondary degree or other recognized credential to 60 percent by 2025. Currently, a little more than 40 percent of Americans aged 25 and older hold an Associate degree.

Matthews says economic growth is dependent upon the skill level of the population.

“We’re at a knowledge economy,” he says. “And the demand for the people who have the necessary knowledge and skills is what’s really driving the economy.”

Matthews says there are two types of skills a worker might possess: general and technical. General skills include the foundational skills you learn in school: problem solving, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, among others.

“These skills don’t desert you when your industry collapses,” he says.

Technical skills, on the other hand, are particular to an occupation. Matthews says employers are willing to pay more for workers with the right blend of know-how.

“There’s something magical about the combination of general skills and technical skills,” he says. “And it’s those people who have both that are doing best in this economy.”

That may be why the commonwealth is pushing for more of its population to be educated. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education released an accountability report earlier this month that showed how the state is doing in areas that include student success, college readiness and education attainment.

In 2013-2014, the CPE aimed for more than 37 percent of Kentucky adults ages 25-44 to acquire an Associate degree or higher. The state slightly missed the mark with 36.5 percent attainment, but that’s up nearly five percentage points from 2009. The percentage is even higher when industry-recognized certificates are included.

The CPE’s report also measured the number of degrees and credentials awarded in 2013-2014 in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as health-related fields. The goal was to award 19,350 STEM degrees in Kentucky. Over that time, the state handed out more than 21,000 STEM degrees.

“We also know that the economy continues to need more people with those degrees,” says Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education.

Experts also say that education attainment is important for attracting and keeping employers. King says if Kentucky can’t improve those numbers, it risks losing employers.

Getting a college degree or recognized credential isn’t only good for your pockets. It also affects where you live, your health, and possibly who you vote for.

Says Dewayne Matthews, of Lumina Foundation, “It’s not a news flash anymore to note the wide disparity in people’s political attitudes in this country as reflected in the presidential campaign based on education level and how that it’s a very stark divide.”

A Nation Engaged: Economic Opportunities For More Americans Monday, Sep 19 2016 

This week, we’re participating in a national week of conversation alongside NPR and fellow member stations called A Nation Engaged. It’s a coordinated conversation around a topic, and the goal is to get a wide variety of voices answering the same question.

A Nation EngagedNPR | wfpl.org

We went to the Dixie Area Business Expo, where independent businesses in South Louisville were showcased. The question: “What can we do to create economic opportunities for more Americans?”

Here are some of the answers.

Yetta Blair, founder and CEO of INK Publishing & Design, with Tim MillerRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Yetta Blair, founder and CEO of INK Publishing & Design, with Tim Miller

Yetta Blair: “It’s about learning skill sets that can provide the type of salaries for a good living.”

Scott Morgan, costume designer for The 7th Street HauntRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Scott Morgan, costume designer for The 7th Street Haunt

Scott Morgan: “To lessen some of the restrictions on trying to get like small business loans and stuff like that.”

Jillian Magruder, recruiter for Adecco Staffing

 

Jillian Magruder: “Yeah, we’re filling almost 4,000 jobs for our warehouse. I’ll just say it makes me really happy to be able to give these people jobs, to like, get them off on the right foot and help them provide for their families.”

Hillary Persley: “So, I think education is the best way to help the economy and help folks get ready for the jobs that they want.”

Chuck Hall, owner of Altitude Trampoline ParkRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Chuck Hall, owner of Altitude Trampoline Park

Chuck Hall: “Give kids a chance. Provide them an opportunity to have a job where they learn from you and open doors for other networking. Having a good experience of something. They take that with them wherever they go with school and other opportunities and build off that. And that creates jobs and other opportunities for business to grow.”

Data Farming: How Big Data Is Revolutionizing Big Ag Monday, Sep 19 2016 

It’s harvest time and a semi full of corn just pulled onto the scales at Seven Springs Farm in Cadiz, Kentucky. On the scale, the analytics work begins: moisture content, weight, production rates, and more are all recorded.

This is just one truck and many more will follow with much more to be stored and later sold for ethanol production. Just one of the farm’s bins can hold as many as 350,000 bushels, or 16.8 million pounds.

These trucks of corn are just one bite of a mouthful of big data that this local farm’s server can no longer swallow. As the farm’s production and technology manager, it’s Nick Woodruff’s job to keep track of it all.

“The way things communicate now and interact has changed a lot in the last couple years, Woodruff said.

big data affects farming in kentuckyNicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Nick Woodruff manages production and technology at Seven Springs Farm in Cadiz, Kentucky.

So has the size of the farm: what started at just 2000 acres covers 36,000 today. When the farm was smaller and “clouds” still just meant white puffy things in the sky, farm data were stored on site. Now, everything is transmitted to a cloud server owned by John Deere, the tractor company.

“All the technology we use is to make us better,” Woodruff said.

The farm uses drones for aerial imagery, “so we can see our strengths and weaknesses at any time in the field,” he said. Machinery and software orchestrate the farm’s variable rate planning, a process that automates the rates of chemical application and seed planting based on detailed field maps. Woodruff can watch this happen in real time and receive the data as it happens.

“It’s all to cut cost, increase production and be more efficient,” he said.

Each silo at Seven Springs Farm can hold more than 16 million pounds of corn, and keeping track of it is a data challenge.Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Each silo at Seven Springs Farm can hold more than 16 million pounds of corn, and keeping track of it is a data challenge.

Big data brings big opportunities. Advanced precision technology allows farmers to crunch massive amounts of data collected through sensors that suggests seeds to use, optimal planting strategies to improve production, cut operational costs, and minimize environmental impact. But as data add value, some thorny questions crop up: just who owns the data?

Woodruff has a privacy agreement with John Deere that makes him owner of data he adds to the company’s  database. However, a company with no connection to Woodruff,  Ag Connections, also has access to that information once John Deere adds the data to that collected from other farmers.

The Data Harvesters

Rick Murdock and Pete Clark are co-founders of Ag Connections.

“Equipment manufacturers have their own product that those machines talk to,” Murdock explained, “then we talk to that server and we pull that record from that server.”

Clouds loom large--both literally and figuratively--over Ag Connections, a high tech company housed in an old tobacco barn in Murray, Kentucky. Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Clouds loom large–both literally and figuratively–over Ag Connections, a high tech company housed in an old tobacco barn in Murray, Kentucky.

The company has integration agreements with John Deere and other manufacturers. Ag Connections is housed in an old refurbished tobacco barn in Murray, Kentucky, and was recently purchased by Syngenta, which is currently the world’s largest seller of agricultural chemicals. (There are talks that China National Chemical Corp. might also be buying Syngenta.) Ag Connections software is offered as a service with Syngenta’s products.

Murdock and Clark realized the value of data back in the 90’s when they saw farmers doing detailed spatial analytics. The farmers knew how to get data, but didn’t exactly know how to manage it.

“What we wanted to do was give them a software product where if they kept their records they could more professionally report and relate to their business partners,” said Murdock.

Meeting Regulations

The software also helps clients comply with regulations. A weather app, for example, will allow a grower to make fertilizer purchase orders with the forecast in mind. That can help reduce pollution from runoff.

“In northwest Ohio we have a lot of growers where they aren’t allowed to apply nitrogen on the field if there is a forecast in the next 36 hours with one inch of rain or greater,” Murdock said.

Increased government regulations are expected across the board. Murdock says their software can help a grower document due diligence.

survey-v4Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

By looking at data from a grower’s current performance and comparing that to state and national averages, the company can also assess how efficiently they are using fertilizer.

“That relates to food processors who want to document that it’s being done under sustainable methods,” Clark said. This baseline allows grower to promote their products as “sustainably sourced” for the products that went into growing the food.

Clark said Ag Connections understands growers are concerned about their data. So the company has a privacy agreement with each client. As the security concerns continue to mount, the Farm Bureau suggests a list of data principles be adopted by each agriculture technology provider. Ag Connections signed on to this as well.

Big Data, Big Concerns

The more data harvesting grows, so do concerns in farm country. According to a May survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, 77 percent of farmers are extremely concerned about who gets access to their data.

“There is a lot of fear currently and a lot of the fear is real,” said Terry Griffin, a cropping systems economist at Kansas State University. Griffin and some colleagues are working on a white paper on big data in agriculture. Griffin worries about threats from hackers planting false data. But most farmers he hears from are worried about who owns data and how that might affect the value of farm land.

venn-v3Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Griffin said loss of data control could undermine a grower’s competitive advantage and could even lead to land grabs. “Farms may fear that a neighboring farm may have a better competitive advantage than they do and acquire more land more quickly,” Griffin said.

Simple land transactions could quickly become complex. For example, if  land is rented, as many farms are, who then owns the data generated: the tenant or the landowner?

“Absent a privacy agreement or some other sort of contract negotiated between the parties there may not be a whole lot of protectable rights with respect to that information,” said Oklahoma State University Associate Professor Shannon Ferrell, who is also working on the white paper.

Law protecting trade secrets might apply, but Ferrell said that would take some work.

“I have to show that it’s got economic value,” he said, “because no one else knows what it is and I’ve been working diligently to keep that information secret.”

Info Ownership

There is probably a good argument to be made that the producer owns any raw data that they are collecting. But much of the law surrounding intellectual property rights, such as copyrights and patents, hinges on the creative effort behind a piece of information.

There is nothing “creative” about, say, the yield monitor data from a grower’s combine. That means the grower probably can’t copyright or patent the information.

“If someone takes that information–just raw information–but creates something new out of it, that creator probably has a greater right to the new creation, whether or not they would have any claim to the data that got them to that point,” Ferrell explained.

Ferrell suspects some of these farm data disputes could land in the courts. He doesn’t know of any cases so far, but he has heard about potential expert witnesses preparing reports on the value of data.

Next Green Revolution?

If growers aren’t fully aware of the potential risks in data disclosure, neither are they aware of the full opportunities, according to Tyler Mark at the University of Kentucky. He thinks data could bring the “next revolution” in agriculture.

Mark, an assistant professor of production economics, is another collaborator on the ag data white paper. “If you look back at the agriculture sector we’ve had the ‘green revolution,’” Mark said, in reference to the great gains brought by hybridized crops, chemical fertilizers, and mechanized irrigation. Mark and his colleagues argue that the next great leap will come with data, and that’s why it’s critical to get over the hurdles of sharing information.

“Will the greatest benefits come at the farm level or will they come at another level up the supply chain?” Mark asked. “Would we benefit more at the national level with a total look at chemical and pesticide usage across the board?”

Industry experts like Ferrell, Griffin, and Mark say the benefits of gathering and sharing data outweigh the risks.

“In particular cases big data allows some farmers to level the playing field,” Griffin explained. Mega farms can afford technology to generate data for themselves. But with these new data communities, smaller farmers would also have access to sort of productive techniques the larger farms enjoy.

Inside the cabin of a self-driving tractor that harvests data as well as crops.Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Inside the cabin of a self-driving tractor that harvests data as well as crops.

Plowing Ahead

Farmers like Nick Woodruff agree. Even though he’s still leery of having his data in the cloud, that  hasn’t stopped Woodruff’s farm from embracing new technology like the new John Deere self-driving tractor. The precision tool has sensors that gather information from the moment it’s turned on.

Woodruff said just like the rest of the economy, everything in agriculture is consolidating. Big farms are getting bigger and farmers are finding it more difficult to keep pace with all the new technology.

“If you aren’t moving forward you are falling behind,” he said.

Statewide Broadband Project Moves Forward Friday, Sep 16 2016 

Kentucky’s statewide broadband internet project, KentuckyWired, will be complete by mid-2019, according to Gov. Matt Bevin.

The $324 million public-private project is a collaboration between the state and private partners, who will operate and maintain the network for 30 years, charging the state about $28.5 million and up per year. After 30 years, Kentucky will own the network.

During a news conference Friday, Bevin said the project will help make Kentucky the “hub of excellence for America.”

“It cannot happen without broadband, it cannot happen without a strong technological infrastructure,” he said.

The project will stretch 3,000-miles of fiber optic cable to build out the “middle mile” of a statewide broadband network. Cities and businesses across the state will be in charge of building out the “last mile” to connect services to customers.

Macquarie Capital, Black & Veatch, Fujitsu, First Solutions and Ledcor are the private partners involved in the project. The companies will make money from charging 670 government agency locations, higher education institutions and others to use the network.

The project has changed since last September when former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration sold $289 million in bonds to finance KentuckyWired.

At the time, officials planned on redirecting about $11 million a year in federal funds that school districts use to pay for internet, having them pay for service through KentuckyWired instead. The money would have helped pay the annual $28.5 million “availability payments” to private partners.

But after the state rebid the school district’s internet contract, AT&T protested, saying that KentuckyWired had an unfair advantage in the bidding process.

AT&T currently holds the long-term contract to provide internet for Kentucky’s 173 public school districts.

Bevin said the state wouldn’t rebid the project.

“That is their contract, they bid it, they received it,” he said. “With that is going to be honored every single relationship, every single contract […] is going to be honored, as well it should be. That’s what good business looks like.”

When asked how the state would pay for the $28.5 million-a-year fee to private companies now that the state won’t be able to use federal funds used by school districts, Bevin said the network will pay for itself through users.

“We will build it, they will come, their use of it will drive the revenue associated with what’s needed to pay this debt back,” Bevin said.

Public-sponsored broadband initiatives have been under fire in states like North Carolina and Tennessee, where recently a federal appeals court upheld state laws that restrict municipalities from expanding city-owned broadband projects.

The state has partnered with Cincinnati Bell and East Kentucky Network to help with construction in the northern and eastern parts of the state, respectively.

When asked if the state should be getting involved in the broadband internet business, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican, compared the initiative to the interstate highway system.

“There are also people these days that say the government should not be involved in building interstate highways,” Rogers said. “This is the new interstate highway of our age.”

Census: Incomes Continue To Climb In The Commonwealth Friday, Sep 16 2016 

Days after the U.S. Census Bureau released new data showing Americans’ incomes were up by 5.2 percent from 2014-15 — the first significant increase since the Great Recession — the agency issued region-specific numbers.

The data, released Thursday, comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Here are three things to know about the changes in Kentucky:

  • Median household incomes in the commonwealth also increased in 2015. The median household income is just more than $45,000. That’s a 5.1 percent increase from a little more than $43,000 in 2014. Kenny Colston, a spokesman for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says although an increase is great, it’s not time to have a party over these numbers. He says longstanding inequalities still exist among geographic areas and race in the state when it comes to economic disparities. “Median income has only improved in three of the congressional districts,” he says. Those districts are 3 and 6, which includes Louisville and Lexington, respectively, as well as the 1st District, which includes far Western Kentucky.
  • The rate of uninsured Kentuckians went down. In 2015, the uninsured rate in Kentucky was 6 percent. That’s a decrease from 14.3 percent in 2013. The decrease between 2013 and 2015 is one of the biggest among the 50 states, according to the Kentucky State Data Center.
  • Among African-Americans, the poverty rate is 30.8 percent. For white Kentuckians it’s 16.9 percent. Ashley Spalding, policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, points to the long, complex history of structural inequalities, including access to good jobs, wages and education. “It also doesn’t help matters that there are racial inequities in our criminal justice system as well,” she says.

Census Bureau: Poverty Rate Down, Median Incomes Up Tuesday, Sep 13 2016 

More Americans are making more money.

The U.S. Census Bureau released new numbers on Tuesday showing that, after a brutal economic recession and years of stagnation, real median household incomes rose from $53,718 in 2014 to $56,516 last year. That’s a 5.2 percent rise — the first statistically significant increase since 2007.

But, as NPR’s Pam Fessler notes, “the median household income was still lower than it was in 2007.”

The official poverty rate decreased to 13.5 percent for last year, a drop of 1.2 percentage points. That represents 3.5 million people who are no longer in poverty and is the largest annual percentage point drop since 1999, the Census Bureau says.

The supplemental poverty measure — an alternate way of gauging poverty, which takes more factors into account — also dropped significantly, falling by 1 percentage point to 14.3 percent.

“Poverty dropped for whites, blacks and Hispanics, as well as for children and seniors,” Pam reports.

The number of people with health insurance also rose. More than 90 percent of Americans are covered by health insurance — an increase of 1.3 percentage points since 2014, and growth of 4.3 percentage points since the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the bureau says.

Last year, 29 million people did not have health insurance, representing 9.1 percent of the population.

Across the board, the Census Bureau’s 2015 numbers show significant signs of progress and reflect a recovering economy.

The 5.2 percent increase in median household income, in particular, was impressive — “one of the largest year-to-year increases that we’ve ever had,” Trudi Renwick of the Census Bureau said.

The income gains for most Americans are tied to growth in employment, as The Associated Press reports:

“The income gains and drop in poverty reflect ongoing gains in the job market, Renwick said. About 2.4 million more Americans found full-time, year-round jobs in 2015.

“Americans are also likely benefiting from an increase in middle-income jobs. Many of the jobs created in the early years of the recovery have been in low-paying sectors, such as fast food restaurants and retail.

“But according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in 2014 and 2015 the growth of middle-income jobs in sectors such as shipping and construction outpaced the gains in lower-paying and higher-paying work.”

Income rose in every region of the country, for every age group of household head, with statistically significant increases for almost every racial group.

But as The New York Times‘ Nate Cohn points out, rural America didn’t experience the same growth as the rest of the country. The median income for people living outside of metropolitan areas dropped 2 percent, to $44,657.

The Census Bureau also looked at economic inequality, where measures did not show any statistically significant changes — even though poorer Americans saw the biggest percentage growth in their incomes.

The difference in income between men and women also did not change by any statistically significant degree. But it did move slightly, from 79 cents on the dollar to 80 cents on the dollar.

“‎But we can’t forget that 80 cents is just part of the story,” Lisa Maatz of the American Association of University Women notes in a statement. “The pay gap gets worse for women of color and moms.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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