Census: US median income rose, poverty rate fell in 2016

James Sullivan

Median household incomes were higher in 2016 than ever before, surpassing a record set almost two-decades ago in 1999, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

Median household income rose 3.2% when adjusted for inflation to $59,039, the second straight rise and a new all-time high, finally surpassing the previous record set in 1999.

The U.S. poverty rate varies depending on household.

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Family households have a real median income of $75,062, and non-family households bring in $35,761.

The Census report covers 2016, the a year ago of the Obama administration.

The 12.7 percent poverty rate represented a decrease of 0.8 percentage points from 13.5 percent in 2015, it said. Nevertheless, the Census data indicates that the most recent income gains have pushed household income close to where it stood in 2007.

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Also, this year income inequality doesn't seem to have worsened, with the Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of inequality, showing no significant change. "But we also saw a big jump in number of people working and the number of people working full-time year round", said Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief for Census, adding: "Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers was flat relative to last year". Median income declined and the poverty rate rose during former President Obama's first term as the nation struggled to recover from the Great Recession before starting to improve in his second term. 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 percentage of people without health insurance was 8.8%, a decline of 0.3%. Some 40.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2016, down from from 43.1 million in 2015.

Another trouble spot can be found for full-time male workers, who saw their incomes slide past year. According to EPI's estimates, which compensates for the difference in income measurement before 2014, the median household earned about $59,992 in 2007, slightly more than the $59,039 reported in 2016.

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