Median household stagnation

September 17, 2013

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“This isn’t a lost decade for economic gains for Americans. It is a lost generation”, Neil Irwin writes after reading today’s new census data covering 2012. The typical American family, he says, made less in 2012 than it did in 1989.

The Census’s new deck — full data here — on these statistics is depressing, if familiar. Median household income was down to $51,000, after falling every year since 2007. The official poverty rate was unchanged (15%), as was the number of Americans in poverty (49 million), and the number of Americans without health insurance (48 million). As Brookings’s Ron Haskins puts it, “everything’s on hold, but at a bad level.”

Earning the national median income, Marketplace writes, can mean living well in an area like Paducah, Kentucky where the typical household income is about $31,000. But earning the local median income makes things much tougher. If you want to torture yourself — or gloat — compare your income to your neighbors’ here.

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that the increasingly threatened social safety net program gave the Census data a boost. Using the Census’s alternative poverty measurement, which accounts for certain social assistance, the food stamp program lifted some 4 million Americans out of the official poverty ranks in 2012, while unemployment benefits did the same for 1.7 million. Still, poverty scholar Sheldon Danziger says it’ll likely take the US economy another half decade of growth to reach the poverty levels seen in the 1990s.

US income inequality, meanwhile, calculated using the Gini coefficient, was also unchanged, but remains near a record high. That’s broadly in line with research released last week on income inequality. This chart, from the Census, shows that while even the top 10% have seen their income stagnate for the past 15 years or so, the broad mass of Americans have been treading water for much longer than that. — Ryan McCarthy



On to today’s links:

Global temperatures over the last 11,000 years — and the huge spike recent spike – Kottke

A victory in the battle to make banks boring and non-disastrous – Matt Levine
Chart of the day, bank-lending edition – Felix

The Fed
Janet Yellen is now, awkwardly, the front-runner to be the next Fed chief – NYT
Who is Janet Yellen? – WSJ

The secret financial market only robots can see – Tim Fernholz

JPMorgan to issue “a groundbreaking admission of wrongdoing” in London Whale case – DealBook
JPMorgan has decided it’s time to make an “unprecedented effort” to comply with regulations – Bloomberg
Civil settlement won’t end JPMorgan’s Whale troubles – Emily Flitter and Matthew Goldstein

Which came first, the bank failure or the output gap? – Izabella Kaminska

The rational choices of crack addicts – NYT

“We complain that we don’t have any time. Our storytellers proceed as if we have nothing but” – Tom Junod

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