Median U.S. household income rises for second year in a row

By Brooks Hays  |  Sept. 12, 2017 at 2:11 PM
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Sept. 12 (UPI) -- For the second year in a row, the median household income in the United States has edged upwards, Census figures indicate.

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median American household earned just over $59,000 in 2016, 3.2 percent more than 2015.

While the 2016 numbers mark an all-time high for median income, officials say changes in data collection methodology enacted in 2013 make direct comparisons difficult. It's unlikely last year's peak bests the previous all-time high, set in 1999.

One left-leaning think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, believes 2016's median household income would still be 1.6 percent below the 2007 median if not for the changes in methodology.

Still, the news offers further evidence of American economy's steady recovery.

The latest census numbers also show fewer Americans are living in poverty, and more Americans are covered by health insurance.

And while the data suggests economic gains are beginning to be accrued more broadly, the long-term trends reveal a widening wealth gap. Over the past 10 years, the poorest fifth of American households have seen their household income decline by $571. The wealthiest fifth of American households have increased their earnings by $13,479 over the past decade.

Not all wealth gaps are growing, however. While women still earn less than men -- 80.5 percent of the wages hauled in by men -- the gender wealth gap is the smallest in history.

The positive trends -- higher incomes, less poverty -- could hamper the ability of the Trump administration to sell drastic public policy changes to the American public, like lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans and sharp cuts to federal spending and public assistance programs.

"Tuesday's Census report comes as the president and congressional Republicans are advancing a cruel policy agenda that would decimate key anti-poverty programs, like federal food assistance and refundable tax credits," John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, told USA Today. "If those proposals become law, they would undermine the quality of life and chances at upward mobility of millions of struggling Americans."

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