U.S. Median Household Income Up By 1.8 Percent Last Year

Things appear to be looking up for the American middle class. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau released on Wednesday showed that the income of the median household in the United States appear to have rebounded from the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

Figures from the "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017" report showed that income in the United States has returned to the levels before the recession. The median household income reached $61,372 last year, up by 1.8 percent from $60,309 in 2016. The New York Times described this as a significant milestone in the slow economic recovery of the nation.

This is the third time in a row that median household income has gone up. Poverty rate has also dropped 2.5 percentage points since 2014. In 2017, the official poverty rate was 12.3 percent, down by 0.4 percentage points from 12.7 percent in 2016.

In a statement released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers on Wednesday, the Trump administration hailed the report as an indication of a strong economy.

"Income gains were apparent in every region of the country and among both high- and low-income households," the statement reads. "These improvements reflect the recent strength of the economy and the job market."

Analysts, however, said that the number shows a trend of declining poverty that goes way back 2014 under Barack Obama's tenure as U.S. president.

Income increased in middle income households
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Data showed that the number of people who worked full-time rose by 2.4 million last year. The gains in income appear driven by increased employment and not by increased pay as the average earnings of full-time workers actually declined last year.

"We have tight labor markets but not tight enough to generate a break from the trend — to spur meaningful wage growth," said liberal Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz.

Democrats likewise argue that the benefits of the growth mostly lean on the wealthy. From 2007 and 2017, the household income of those at the 90th percentile increased by 7.5 percent, while that of the 10th percentile dropped by 4.5 percent.

Elise Gould, senior economist at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, said in a statement to Reuters that the income growth was stronger and broad-based in 2015 and 2016.

"In 2017, however, well-worn patterns of inequality reemerged, with stronger growth at the top than for typical households."
There is also large discrepancy by races. The median income for white, non-hispanic households rose by 2.6 percent in 2017 and those of Hispanic households rose by 3.7 percent. The median income of African-American household fell by 0.2 percent.