The U.S. median household income rose to a record last year and the poverty rate fell, as steady economic growth helped improve the lot of more Americans, according to annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Sept. 12.
Highlights of 2016 Income and Poverty Report
• Median, inflation-adjusted household income increased 3.2% to $59,039 last year, from $57,230 in 2015.
• Median incomes for black and Hispanic households rose at more than double the rate of white households; female householders outpaced males.
• Poverty rate declined to 12.7% from 13.5%; represented 40.6 million Americans.
The results show improving incomes helped to make a further dent in poverty in 2016, which was President Barack Obama’s final year in office.
Strength in the labor market likely played a role. The economy added 2.2 million jobs last year and the unemployment rate had declined to 4.7% by year end. It’s fallen further in recent months to a 16-year low.
While poverty is declining gradually, a sustained acceleration in wages remains elusive in this expansion. Last year’s poverty rate wasn’t “statistically different” from the 12.5% pre-recession level in 2007, according to the Census Bureau on Sept. 12.
The annual report gives a more comprehensive, though less timely, snapshot than the Labor Department’s monthly employment report, which shows average hourly earnings of workers on private nonfarm payrolls, or the Commerce Department’s monthly personal income report.
• Share of people without health insurance coverage for 2016 declined to 8.8%, or 28.1 million people, from 29 million in 2015.
• Real median incomes for family households increased 2.7% to $75,062; for nonfamily households the gain was 4.5% to $35,761 last year.
• Gini index for money income of 0.481 in 2016 was “not statistically different from 2015.”
With assistance by Vince Golle, and Alexandre Tanzi