Sep 11, 2019

Census data: Household income hasn't budged since 1999

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets

New U.S. Census figures show gains in wages and declines in poverty for U.S. citizens, but some household income numbers sour the data.

By the numbers: Median income in 2018 was higher than every year since at $63,179, per the Census in a note accompanying the data's release. But the agency cautions recent estimates reflect changes implemented to the survey and analysts point out that household income hasn't moved much since 1999.

Reality check: "Considering that the U.S. economy grew by an inflation-adjusted 48% over the same period, that is more than striking," WSJ's Justin Lahart writes.

  • Poverty is dropping. The number of people living in poverty fell by 1.4 million.
  • But median income is growing slowly. "Median household incomes rose only 0.9% in 2018, compared with 1.8% in 2017. In 2016 and 2015, median household incomes grew much faster, at 3.1% and 5.1%, respectively," analysts at the Economic Policy Institute note.

What they're saying:

  • “Household income growth significantly slowed again in 2018, following a marked deceleration in 2017. While any reduction in poverty or increase in income is a step in the right direction, most families have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade,” EPI senior economist Elise Gould said in a release.
  • "We’ve seen a lot of gains in employment among lower-income and lower-education groups ... but it is precisely those groups that are vulnerable to layoffs if economic activity slows," Marianne Wanamaker, an economist and former member of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Washington Post.

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