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US Family Incomes Up, Poverty Down

13 September 2017

American incomes rose significantly for a second year in a row in 2016, bouncing back after the lost decade that followed the last recession. However, the Census Bureau warned against making direct comparisons because of changes in its methodology, made in 2014. In 2015, household incomes rose 5.2%, the largest increase since records began in 1967. 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. Yet that growth came after a steep recession and a slow recovery that left most American households with only meager pay increases.

Despite the income gains of the past two years, he added, the economy "has been broken for a long time" due to rising income inequality, a trend that is still evident in Census's latest data. Overall, the story was pretty upbeat in 2016, the previous year of President Barack Obama's term. This is the first time since the recession that the poverty rate isn't statistically different from the 2007 level of 12.5%, a sign of how the US economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Those in the median and bottom 10th percentile of earners saw their real incomes grow 5.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

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The number of people in poverty nationally in 2016 was 40.6 million, which was 2.5 million fewer than in 2015, the bureau said. Still, almost 41 million Americans remained in poverty in 2016.

And the proportion of Americans without health insurance declined to 8.8 percent, the report showed, down from 9.1 percent. 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. In 2016, a family of four with two adults and two children with a household income of $24,339 or less, two adults under age 65 with $16,543 or less, or someone aged 65 or older with $11,511 in annual income would all meet the poverty threshold, according to Census. 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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The agency released data on income, poverty, and health insurance for 2016.

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US Family Incomes Up, Poverty Down