Median Income and Poverty Rate Hold Steady, Census Bureau Finds
By ANNIE LOWREY, September 17, 2013
The report depicts an economy that has failed to improve the lot of most households and left about 46.5 million Americans living in poverty in 2012.
“The poverty and income numbers are a metaphor for the entire economy,” said Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution. “Everything’s on hold, but at a bad level.” He added, “Don’t expect things to change until the American economy begins to generate more jobs.”
Median household income, adjusted for inflation, halted its fall at $51,017, about where it was the previous year. That is down about 9 percent from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999, though the economy has grown by about 28 percent since then. Income is also down about 8.3 percent since 2007, when the economy started to contract.
As the economy has expanded since the recession ended in 2009, income gains have accrued almost entirely to the top earners, the Census Bureau found. The census data shows that the top 5 percent of earners — households making more than about $191,000 a year — have recovered most of their losses and took in about as much in 2012 as they did before the recession hit. But those in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution are, on average, making considerably less...
“The good news from today’s 2012 income and poverty results is that for the first year since the Great Recession hit, things aren’t getting worse,” Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a former Obama economics official and a contributor to The New York Times’s Economix blog, wrote in his analysis of the numbers. “The bad news is that three years into an economic recovery, they’re not getting better either.”