After a rough several years for middle class Americans, the effects of the economic recovery are finally being seen across the board. According to the Census Bureau’s annual report [PDF], median household incomes are up for the first time since 2007, the year prior to the last recession.
In 2015, American families were earning a median income of $56,516, up 5.2 percent from the median of $53,718 in 2014. Besides the size of the jump—the biggest since the census bureau began keeping track in 1968—the statistic is significant in that it’s reflected in nearly all races and age groups. Last year, non-Hispanic White, Black, and Hispanic households all saw their incomes increase from 2014. For non-Hispanic White and Black households, it was the first median household income boost in eight years.
Those statistics are especially promising for lower and middle class Americans. While the median income for most families has remained stagnant in the years following the recession, the richest Americans have made a full recovery. This year, the middle class actually saw more growth than the super rich, with households in the 95th percentile making just 3.7 percent more than they did in 2014.
Our nation’s poorest citizens are also benefiting from the recovery. People in the 10th percentile of income saw an increase of 7.9 percent between 2014 and 2015. At the same time, the national poverty rate dropped from 14.8 percent to 13.5 percent.
It’s easy to see those numbers and get excited. Americans who may have felt left out from the recovery before are finally starting to see some gains, though we still have some catching up to do in order to get back to where we were before the crash. When adjusted for inflation, The New York Times points out, the median household income is still 1.6 percent below where it was in 2007. The report also showed that other areas, like gender income disparity, don’t look quite as optimistic. The female-to-male earnings ratio is 0.80, basically the same it was before the recession, though lawmakers are starting to fight for legislation that could help tighten that gap.
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