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Minn. makes economic gains, but racial disparities persist: 5 census survey takeaways

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Minnesota's median income has increased in the past five years, but some racial groups are left staggering behind.

Those are just two takeaways from the American Community Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau's ongoing and largest survey. The whole survey is set for release on Thursday — the APM Research Lab examined the findings to see how the economic landscape has changed in Minnesota between 2011 and 2016.  

While many of the trends are positive on the surface, they mask persistent racial disparities. 

We've pulled together five notable changes, as shown in the survey:

1) Our labor force is powered by immigrants

Over the past five years, Minnesota's immigrant labor force has increased by 48,000 people, while the U.S.-born labor force increased by 35,000, according to the survey. 

Had it not been for immigrants, Minnesota's workforce would not see as much growth due to the Baby Boomer generation retiring, said Craig Helmstetter, managing partner of the APM Research Lab.

2) Black Minnesotans' unemployment rates dropped, but still lag behind whites

The unemployment rate for black Minnesotans dropped from 20 percent to about 10 percent, the survey found. That amounts to some 28,000 more black Minnesotans being employed. 

However, there's a significant disparity between the black unemployment rate and the overall state unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. 

3) Minnesotans' incomes increased

The state saw an overall rise in median income from $61,000 to $66,000, the survey found. "People got ahead of the cost of living," so they were able to budget for their needs, said Andi Egbert, senior research associate at the APM Research Lab.

Again, however, there's a racial disparity: Median household income for black Minnesotan families was at $33,000. 

4) More Minnesotans have health care

Over the past five years, the rate of uninsured Minnesotans has dropped from 8.8 percent to 4.1 percent. 

Egbert believes the Affordable Care Act has to do with the decrease because of the individual mandate, outreach efforts, subsidies to help people purchase insurance and growth in programs such as Medical Assistance that came with the health care law. 

5) Poverty rate dips slightly

The poverty rate has dropped from 12 percent to 10 percent in the past five years, the survey found.

APM researchers said that's due to the economy improving over the years, and an overall increase in employment opportunities.

Editor's Note (Sept. 14, 2017): This article has been updated to make it clear that the American Community Survey is ongoing. More information has also been added concerning possible reasons for the increase in insured Minnesotans.