US Census Bureau: Median Income Rises, Poverty Declines

US Census Bureau: Median Income Rises, Poverty Declines

The Wall Street Journal reported on new data from the Census Bureau regarding American incomes and poverty levels.

In 2017, income levels were rising and poverty was declining— trends that have remained consistent for several years. New data still show that average incomes are increasing, by 10.4% over the least three years. Median household income rose to $61,372 last year—a 1.8% increase when accounting for inflation. Moreover, the poverty rate also dropped again, by .4%, the lowest it’s been since 2006.

However, some of these figures are partially due to changes in the way the statistics are calculated by the census bureau. The 2017 figures on income weren’t statistically different than those from 1999 and 2007, making the average American’s income precisely “where it was before the last two recessions.” Further, the 2017 growth rate for median household income was less than that of the previous two years (rising 1.8%), while it increased 5.2% in 2015 and 3.2% in 2016.

Considering the strength of the economy today and the low unemployment rate (4%), it is shocking to many economists that wages haven’t risen more than 1.8% this past year. This may be partly due to increasing inflation, “cutting into gains” regarding income.

Democrats attribute the income gains to President Obama, stating that they began three years ago. They stress that these gains are not equally distributed, with households at the 90th percentile for earned making an average of $179,077 a year while those at the 10th percentile made $14,219. More than half of all income went to the top 20%. The White House Council of Economic Advisers says the figures underestimate economic gains since they don’t completely consider “health insurance, food stamps and housing assistance.” Republicans, of course, hope that these figures will benefit the GOP in the November elections.

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