Wealth in America
Median income and earnings rise in 2018, while poverty rates drop, Census data shows
The median household income in the United States rose, from $62,626 in 2017 to $63,179 in 2018, to $68,703 in 2019 adjusted for inflation.
The Census Bureau provides estimates of Americans’ earnings. According to the most recent Census data released in September, the median household income rose from $62,626 in 2017 to $63,179 in 2018 adjusted for inflation, and the official poverty rate fell from 12.3% to 11.8%.
The BLS also reports annual median wages by occupation and sector. The median wage was $38,640 in 2019 and wage increases have varied greatly from occupation to occupation for nearly two decades. While median wages in occupations such as farming and management have increased over 10% since 2001, adjusting for inflation, median wages in education and in maintenance roles have decreased 3%. Overall, median wages have increased 0.7% since 2001, after adjusting for inflation.
While median wages may have stagnated in some professions, fewer workers are making the federal minimum wage or less as more states and municipalities implement minimum wage laws above the nationwide level of $7.25 per hour, a wage that has not changed since 2010. As we discussed in a piece on the minimum wage in America, there were 1.7 million workers (or 2% of all hourly workers) in 2018 who earned wages at or below the federal minimum.
The net worth of American households grew 58% from the recession low of $68 trillion ($577,000 per household) in the first quarter of 2009, to $107 trillion ($881,000 per household) in the second quarter of 2019, based on inflation-adjusted data from the Federal Reserve. However, as we described in a piece on the wealth distribution, data from the Federal Reserve shows that the top 1% holds 25.4% of all wealth (assets minus liabilities and debts owed). That’s the greatest proportion the top 1% has held since the dataset was created in 1989.
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