Household Incomes Rose to Record in 2016 as Poverty Fell

James Sullivan

American families finally earn more than they did in 1999

Last year, the Census Bureau reported that the median household income rose 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, the first gains since 2007. African-American median household income jumped 5.7 percent to $39,490 year over year.

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. But Census officials cautioned against comparing the figures because the bureau has changed its methodology over the years. The U.S. economy added a total of 2 million jobs a year ago, ending with a 4.7% unemployment rate, down from 5% at the close of 2015. The South and the Western regions of the USA saw the biggest income increases, while the Northeast and Midwest saw no statistically significant change at all.

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.

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.

Still, the Census data is closely watched because of its comprehensive nature. "Real median household income has finally completed its nine-year slog of digging out of the ditch", one economist tells USA Today.

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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. State and county figures on income and poverty, as well as health insurance coverage for areas with populations of 65,000 or more, are to be released Thursday.

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

The percentage of people without health insurance was 8.8%, a decline of 0.3%.

Another trouble spot can be found for full-time male workers, who saw their incomes slide previous year. Meanwhile, Asian households had a median income of $81,400 and Hispanic households of $47,700.

The gap between the earnings of women and men narrowed slightly in 2016, with women now earning just more than 80 cents for every dollar men earn.

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