American household income finally topped 1999 peak previous year

Posted September 13, 2017

The median USA household's income finally topped pre-recession levels last year and has reached an all-time high after years of sluggish growth. Black families saw their median income climb 5.7% in 2016 to $39,500, while Hispanic households had a 4.3% increase to $47,675.

In a stark reminder of the damage done by the Great Recession and of the modest recovery that followed, the median American household past year finally earned more than it did in 1999. However, the Census Bureau warned against making direct comparisons because of changes in its methodology, made in 2014.

The poorest USA households, by comparison, have a smaller share of income than ever before.

The poverty rate in 2016 ticked down by 0.8 percentage point to 12.7 percent.

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In fact, median income has not even caught up with its pre-recession level, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning group, which crunched the Census data to account for the change.

The Census report covers 2016, the a year ago of the Obama administration, and underline the strength of the economic recovery he oversaw after the worst recession in living memory.

"This has been two consecutive years of very strong income growth", said Trudy Renwick, assistant division chief at Census.

According to the Census Bureau, 2016 marked the first year that the poverty rate was not significantly higher than in 2007, or prior to the Great Recession. Nevertheless, the Census data indicates that the most recent income gains have pushed household income close to where it stood in 2007.

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The income gains reflect mostly a rise in the number of Americans with jobs and in people working full time, the agency said.

Other measures of Americans' economic health also improved. The "median" means half the population earns more, half earns less.

The bureau reported 40.6 million people in the United States are considered living in poverty, or 2.5 million fewer than in 2015. Basically, the good news from last year's income report, which was the first really positive sign in almost a decade, may be turning into a trend.

Regionally, the Northeastern United States has the highest median household income at $64,390. Women now make 80.5 cents to every $1 earned by men, or an increase of 1.1 percent from 2015.

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