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The median household earned more money in 2016 than ever before, according to new Census Bureau data. The typical family earned $59,039, up 3.2% compared to 2015 and beating the previous all-time high of $58,149 from 1999. (Census Bureau officials, however, warned that the the 2016 number isn't directly comparable to estimates from before 2014, when its survey was modified to capture more sources of income.)

Expand chart

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it's good news: 2016 was the second straight year for wage increases as a strong job market has raised wages for some and provided new jobs for the previously unemployed.

Why it's not so good news: Even if median income is at an all-time high, it's not very much higher than it was twenty years ago. As University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers writes this morning on Twitter, "The most amazing fact remains that Real Median Household income in 2016 is barely above that in 1999."

Point is, for the American middle class, it hasn't just been a lost decade. It's pretty much a lost two decades. An urgent economic crisis. — Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) September 12, 2017

Is it really a crisis? Not every economist would characterize the situation in such dire terms. The American Enterprise Institute's Mark Perry has pointed out that because household sizes have been declining over the years, median income per person has been rising at a faster rate than median household income. Another factor holding down income growth is the retirement of baby boomers — causing a wave of high earners to leave the labor market only to be replaced by younger folks not making as much.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.