House­hold in­comes see first big gain since 2007

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Snider Con­tribut­ing: Gre­gory Korte

Af­ter eight lean years, Ameri- cans got fat­ter pay­checks in 2015 — their first sig­nif­i­cant hike since 2007 and the big­gest since record keep­ing be­gan in 1968. The U.S. me­dian house­hold in­come rose 5.2% to $56,516, the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau re­ported Tues­day.

“This is a big deal,” Pres­i­dent Obama said Tues­day in Philadel­phia. “Across every age, every race in Amer­ica, in­comes rose, and the poverty rate fell. In fact, the typ­i­cal house­hold in­come of Amer­i­cans rose by $2,800, which is the sin­gle big­gest one-year in­crease on record.”

The in­come of the typ­i­cal U.S. home still hasn’t man­aged to rise above where it was be­fore the last re­ces­sion. In 2007, me­dian house­hold in­come — the point at which half would make more, while the other half would make less — was $57,423, ad­justed for in­fla­tion. In­comes peaked in 1999 at $57,909, also ad­justed for in­fla­tion, the bu­reau said in its re­port, “In­come and Poverty in the United States: 2015.”

“We lifted 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty,” Obama said. “The unin­sured rate is the low­est it has been since they kept records. The pay gap be­tween men and women shrank to the low­est level ever.”

Though the num­ber of peo­ple in poverty shrank to 43.1 mil­lion from 46.7 mil­lion, the largest drop since 1968, there’s room for im­prove­ment, said House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “To­day’s re­port is an­other dis­ap­point­ing con­fir­ma­tion that too many Amer­i­cans are still strug­gling to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies and reach their full po­ten­tial,” he said. “The fed­eral govern­ment in­vests bil­lions of dol­lars each year in pro­grams to help low-in­come Amer­i­cans — but more than 43 mil­lion peo­ple con­tinue to live in poverty. It shouldn’t be this way in Amer­ica.”

Gary Burt­less, an economist at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, called the re­duc­tion in poverty “fairly sharp.” He won­dered whether the in­crease in house­hold in­come is spot on. He noted that the Cen­sus Bu­reau’s house­hold in­come find­ings, based on pop­u­la­tion sur­veys, have trailed the in­creases found in the Bu­reau of Eco­nomic Anal­y­sis’ Na­tional In­come and Prod­uct Ac­counts. Where Cen­sus data found in­comes down 1.1% from 2013 to 2014, the BEA re­port had them up 2.1%, he says.

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