Census Bureau: Median Incomes Climbing for First Time Since 2007

Canadian incomes jump but Ontario residents hit by manufacturing downturn: Statistics Canada

Median household incomes were higher in 2016 than ever before, surpassing a record set almost two-decades ago in 1999, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

The income growth, however, likely stems from more people returning to work and more moving up to full-time jobs, as opposed to workers getting significant raises, said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, Asian households had a median income of $81,400 and Hispanic households of $47,700. However, the Census Bureau warned against making direct comparisons because of changes in its methodology, made in 2014.

Family households have a real median income of $75,062, and non-family households bring in $35,761. That means 40.6 million people are living below the poverty line, which is also down from previous years. The figures for 2016 mark the second consecutive annual increase in the median household income - a closely watched metric for how the American middle class is doing from year to year, adjusted for inflation.

"Over the past several decades Census Bureau reports have found that the average one year risk of poverty tends to vary between 11 and 15 percent". For the second year in a row, median income rose for households headed by Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites and blacks. The 2016 figure is not statistically different than the 2007 rate, the bureau said.

Income inequality and wage stagnation have plagued most American households in the post-recession years, crimping family budgets at a time when the cost of essentials such as health care have risen sharply.

The percentage of people without health insurance for the entire calendar year of 2016 was 8.8 percent, or 28.1 million people, a 0.3 percent decrease from 2015. The rest had Medicare, Medicaid or military coverage.

America's poverty rate also fell to 12.7%, its lowest rate since 2007. Tom Hirschl, sociologist and co-author of "Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes", says that while the numbers today reflect an incremental improvement, middle-class and working-class Americans still feel insecure about their economic future.

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