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Americans are finally making more money than we were in 1999

It took 18 years, but the American median income is finally back to where it was before the 2001 recession


Charlie May
September 12, 2017 6:08PM (UTC)

After two years of increases, the median income for U.S. households is now slightly higher than what the median income was for households in 1999.

Adjusted for inflation, median household income rose to $59,039, which is up 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to Census Bureau statistics. The previous highest median income, the Associated Press reported, was $58,665, which was recorded in 1999.

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"Trudi Renwick, the bureau's assistant division chief, cautioned that the census in 2013 changed how it asks households about income, making historical comparisons less than precise," according to the AP.

The report covers the final year of the Obama administration, in which poverty rates also decreased from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent. In real numbers, that's a drop of 2.5 million people, according to USA Today. The number represent the first time since the recession that the rate wasn’t higher than levels prior to the recession.

In a year filled with debate on health care, the amount of Americans who have health insurance increased by 900,000 to 28.1 million, and the percentage of Americans not covered by insurance dropped from 9.1 percent to 8.8 percent.

Despite improved unemployment rates, wages have only grown sluggishly, USA Today elaborated:

Many economists have bemoaned average wage growth that has risen just modestly despite the low 4.4 percent unemployment rate that’s making it tougher for employers to find qualified workers. In 2016, average wage gains accelerated to 2.9 percent from a tepid 2 percent earlier in the recovery, but they’ve retreated to 2.5 percent in recent months.

The Census Bureau’s median household income measure, however, is broader because it also includes bonuses, Social Security income, public assistance payments, and interest and dividends from investments, among other sources. Income gains were also bolstered by the healthy 2.2 million jobs the economy created in 2016.


Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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Health Insurance Household Income The Great Recession U.s. Census Bureau Unemployment

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