US Median Household Income Update: Who Gets What?

October 2, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Asian-American | Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Hispanic | Household Income | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

The real median household income in the US was $63,179 last year, representing a (statistically insignificant) 0.9% rise year-over-year from 2017. The figure comes from a new report released by the US Census Bureau, based on official national findings from the Current Population Survey. Real median household income (in 2018 dollars) has grown by about 13% over the past 30 years (from $55,716 in 1988) and is at its highest point yet.

The largest share (17.2%) of US households continues to be in the $50-75k income range, though the percentage of households in this range has trended down over the past 50-odd years, from a high of 24.6% in 1968. In its place is a growing share of households in the $100k+ bracket, with just more than 30% of households last year having income exceeding that threshold.

The Census Bureau data provides some interesting breakouts based on race and ethnicity.

According to the breakdown:

  • Asian households (Asian-alone) continued to have the highest median household income (HHI) in 2018, of $87,194. These households represented the only race or ethnicity to experience a statistically significant increase – of 4.6% – over 2017;
  • Non-Hispanic whites were next, at $70,642, a 1.1% increase, followed by;
  • Hispanics (any race), at $51,450, a 0.1% increase; and
  • Non-Hispanic Black households, at $41,361, a 2.6% increase.

Per the Census Bureau’s age breakdown, real median HHI was:

  • Highest among 45-54-year-old householders ($84,464 last year, up by 2.9%); followed by
  • 35-44-year-old householders ($80,743, no change from 2017);
  • 55-64-year-old householders ($68,951, down by 2.3%);
  • 25-34-year-old householders ($65,890, up by 5.0%);
  • Householders aged 65 and up ($43,696, up by 3.3%); and
  • 15-24-year-old householders ($43,531, up by 9.1%).

Note: Householders refers to those who maintain the household.

While median household income (HHI) grew by about 13% in the 30-year period between 1988 and 2018, the top percentiles have experienced far more rapid growth:

  • Real HHI for the households in the 95th percentile has increased by 42%, to $248,728 last year; and
  • HHI for households in the 90th percentile has grown by 34% to $184,292 last year, while;
  • HHI for households in the 10th percentile has increased by just 9% over that time span, to $14,629.

What that effectively means is that while those in the 95th percentile enjoyed an HHI 13 times greater than those in the 10th percentile back in 1988, that gap has now reached a multiple of about 17.

Other Findings:

  • The top 5% of households took home 22.5% of aggregate income last year;
  • Among full-time year-round workers, women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio stood at 82% last year ($50,795 compared to $55,291). While still far from parity, the ratio has steadily grown from 61% in 1960 and is up from 77% in 2012.
  • 38.1 million Americans lived in poverty last year, or 11.8% of the population, down from 12.3% in 2017. That rate is also down from 22.4% in 1959, but up from 11.3% in 2000.
  • The poverty rate was highest among Black Americans (20.8%) and Hispanics (17.6%) and was considerably lower among Asians (10.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (8.1%).

The full report can be accessed online here.

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