Incomes are rising, and a declining share of U.S. households are mired in poverty.
Household income grew for the third consecutive year in 2017 but at a slower pace. And poverty edged down in a sign that the healthy economy is lifting Americans across the financial spectrum.
Median U.S. household income rose 1.8 percent to an all-time high of $61,372, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday, as the West and Midwest notched the strongest gains. That followed advances of 5.2 percent in 2015 and 3.2 percent in 2016.
Household income includes bonuses, Social Security, public assistance payments and interest and dividends from investment, among other sources.
A big reason for the income gains is that more part-time workers got full-time jobs in an improving labor market, says Trudi Renwick, assistant division chief for income statistics for the census. But noting that the pace of income gains slowed last year, Elise Gould, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, says, “Most families have just barely made up for lost growth over the past decade.”
The report on household gains in President Donald Trump’s first year in office comes as a Trump-led tax cut increases after-tax income for most Americans but largely for the wealthy. The president also has taken steps to allow states to impose work requirements on lower-income households receiving Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies.
The economy continued to improve last year following the bruising recession of 2007 to 2009, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.1 percent in December from a recession peak of 10 percent in 2009. It’s currently 3.9 percent.
The number of Americans living in poverty was unchanged at 39.7 million, but the poverty rate dipped to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent in 2016, the third consecutive annual decline. Since 2014, the rate has fallen from 14.8 percent, the census report said.
The 12.3 percent share of those in poverty, however, is still higher than the 11.3 percent in 2008, Gould notes.
People with at least a bachelor’s degree represented the only group that experienced a rising share of poverty, though they still had the lowest poverty rate at 4.5 percent.
“Million upon millions suffer from poverty and low wealth while we continue to give unnecessary tax cuts to the wealthy,” William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, told reporters Wednesday. Barber blasted Trump administration policies that he said hurt the poor, including reducing regulations on business and access to affordable health care.
There were 28.5 million Americans without health insurance in 2017, or 8.8 percent of the population, a figure that was unchanged from 2016. The pool of uninsured Americans had been steadily shrinking in prior years as the Affordable Care Act allowed more people to receive coverage.
Although median income reached $61,000 for the first time, census officials noted the agency changed the way it collects data in 2013 and the figure is not statistically different from 1999 or 2007 on an inflation-adjusted basis.
Across racial groups, income increased 2.6 percent for white households to $68,145 and 3.7 percent for Hispanics to $50,486. Income was unchanged for Asians at $81,331 and for blacks at $40,258.
Copyright © 2018, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Paul Davidson, with Deborah Berry, contributing