American incomes rose for second consecutive year under Obama

Posted September 13, 2017

The median US household's income finally topped pre-recession levels last year and has reached an all-time high after years of sluggish growth. Black households saw their incomes rise by 5.7 percent in 2016, to $39,490, compared to 2 percent for white households, which now earn $65,041.

Households gained the most on the Northeast and West, but the median income was essentially flat in the Midwest and actually declined in the South.

The Census data said it changed its income questions in 2014, which makes it hard to make comparisons before that year. The Census also calculates the "supplemental" poverty rate, a more comprehensive measure introduced in 2011 that takes into account taxation, how the cost of living varies across geographical areas, and government benefits.

According to the EPI's analysis of Census states the median income of non-elderly households is still well behind the peak reached in 2000 at $69,890, and she said it was "problematic" that men's wages had stalled in 2016.

That percentage-point increase in 2015 was the largest since 1998, when real median income increased 3.7 percent from 1997, Jonathan Rothbaum, chief of the bureau's statistics branch, said in an online analysis at the time.

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

Still, the Census data is closely watched because of its comprehensive nature.

As a result, 40.6 million people now live below the poverty line, 2.5 million fewer than the year before, in the second consecutive decrease in poverty. That is the second gain in two years. Half a century ago, the highest 5 percent of earners controlled just 17.2 percent of all income. Republicans in Congress narrowly failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law that extends insurance to millions of Americans.

The share of the population without health insurance fell to 8.8 percent, or 28.1 million people, down from 9.1 percent 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. Meanwhile, Asian households had a median income of $81,400 and Hispanic households of $47,700. Women earned 80.5 percent of men's earnings, up from 79.6 percent in 2015.