3 big reasons to slap a smile on your face after seeing the new Census report.

It's here, kids! It's here! The Census Bureau's report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015 is FINALLY HERE!

We've spent so many days beside our empty Census boxes, eagerly awaiting the Census man in his apron, black tie, and cap to drop it off with a warm smile and friendly wave.

"Morning, Johnny!" Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images.


Oh how excited we all were when we woke up this morning to the smell of warm ozone and printer ink, then scampered downstairs in our footy-pajamas to find a fresh-hot Census report awaiting us. What a day. What a glorious day!

The most recent Census report is brimming with good news.

News that honestly and truly means life is getting better for Americans just like you! That's right, you! Reading this right now on your phone. In your plaid shirt.

"It's me! He's talking about me!" Photo via iStock.

So go ahead and curl up with the full 70-page report and get ready to spend a couple of hours reading footnotes on how life is about to be several percentage points better for you and your loved ones.

(Just kidding, I did it for you.)

1. Average household income has increased 5.2% in the past year.

That's great news by itself, but the better news is that it's actually the first annual increase in household income since 2007 — the year before the housing market imploded and the U.S. economy sank faster than a cannonball tied to a piano.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As always, race is a significant factor in income and economic growth, so there are disparities there. According to the report, Hispanic households saw a median increase of 6.1% and black households saw an increase of 4.1%. But! Households in every region of the United States saw an income increase. Which is pretty cool.

2. The poverty rate has decreased 1.2%.

It might not seem like a lot, and of course any place that calls itself "the land of opportunity" should be doing a better job of combatting poverty, but 1.2% is far from nothing.

In 2014, the estimated number of families living in poverty was 9.5 million. This latest report estimates the number at 8.6 million. So nearly a million families in America are no longer living in poverty.

Urban farming has recently been stimulating the economy in Detroit, which has some of the highest poverty levels in the U.S. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

3. The number of people without health insurance has fallen.

In the period covered by the report, the number of uninsured people in the U.S. fell from 33 million to 29 million. So that's — hang on, give me a second — 4? Yeah. 4 million people who now have health insurance.

Even better? For the second year in a row, that increase in health insurance is true for every age group under 65.

People over 65 benefit from government-operated programs like Medicare. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images.

Things are looking up. But of course, there's still work to do.

On a family-to-family, human-to-human level, we're better off than we were last year — and much better off than eight years ago, when people were losing jobs by the millions and no one knew if the economy would totally collapse.

We got better. And we can get even better.

According to the report, income inequality has remained statistically unchanged. It's been an important issue in the 2016 election and has been on the minds of millions of Americans since 2008, when the market crashed.

Protesters at the New York Stock Exchange in 2008. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Racial disparities also continue to plague this country and make it measurably harder for some families to do as well as others. Not to mention the fact that despite the shrinking number, millions of Americans still don't have health insurance.

We've pulled ourselves out of a deep rut over the past several years, but we need to keep climbing, working toward things that have been proven to help the economy like immigration, infrastructure investment, and education, to name a few.

Americans face hardships every day, but we come out stronger and more ready for the next challenge. So next year, when the new Census Report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage comes out, I hope you all get as excited as I just did. If we work together to build a stronger, fairer, better America, the news next year will be even better.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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"Toy Story 2" got deleted and backups weren't working. Whoops.

A newborn baby saving an entire animated film production from unprecedented disaster? Sounds a bit like the plot of a Pixar short, doesn't it?

Something (sort of) like that actually did happen during the making of "Toy Story 2." (There are a several retellings of the story out there, from an in-depth interview on The Next Web to the simplified, animated version in the "Toy Story 2" extras shown below.)

Here's a basic rundown of what happened:

The film was well underway when an unnamed Pixar employee who was trying to delete unneeded files accidentally applied the "remove" command to the root files of the film. Suddenly, things started disappearing. Woody's hat. Then his boots. Then Woody himself.

Pixar folks watched characters and sequences disappear in front of their eyes. Obviously, this was … not good.

Oren Jacob, the associate technical director of the film, got on the horn to the systems crew with a panicked "Pull the plug!" They did. Were they able to stop the bleed? Nope, 90% of the movie was gone. Surely there was a backup system, though, right?

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!