Household Income Finally Beats 1999 Record

Census Bureau

Census Bureau

The U.S. poverty rate fell for the second straight year in 2016 to 12.7 percent, while median income rose to $59,000 in 2016 from $57,200 a year earlier, according to federal government data released on Tuesday. The figures for 2016 mark the second consecutive annual increase in the median household income - a closely watched metric for how the American middle class is doing from year to year, adjusted for inflation.

The latest household income figure is the highest ever reported by the Census Bureau - eclipsing the peak of $58,665 reached in 1999.

The Census data said it changed its income questions in 2014, which makes it hard to make comparisons before that year. The U.S. economy added a total of 2 million jobs past year, ending with a 4.7% unemployment rate, down from 5% at the close of 2015.

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The Census report covers 2016, the past year of the Obama administration. It's the second consecutive year the US has seen an increase. Those in the median and bottom 10th percentile of earners saw their real incomes grow 5.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

By at least one measure, the great recession that started in December 2007 was officially recovered from by the time President Obama left office, the New York Times reports. Nevertheless, the Census data indicates that the most recent income gains have pushed household income close to where it stood in 2007.

The number of those without health care coverage is also down.

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The bureau also said 28.1 million people in the United States, or 8.8 percent, lacked health insurance coverage in 2016 compared with 29 million, or 9.1 percent, in 2015. There were 40.6 million people living in poverty. Tom Hirschl, sociologist and co-author of "Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes", says that while the numbers today reflect an incremental improvement, middle-class and working-class Americans still feel insecure about their economic future.

The report found that the gender gap in wages narrowed previous year for the first time since 2007.

Regionally, the Northeastern United States has the highest median household income at $64,390.

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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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