Household income in the United States: Wikis

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Median household income in the United States, by county, in 2008

Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions. That measure counts all the income of all residents over the age of 18 in each household, including not only all wages and salaries, but such items as unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support payments, regular rental receipts, as well as any personal business, investment, or other kinds of income received routinely.[1] The residents of the household do not have to be related to the head of the household for their earnings to be considered part of the household's income.[2] As households tend to share a similar economic context, the use of household income remains among the most widely accepted measures of income. That the size of a household is not commonly taken into account in such measures may distort any analysis of fluctuations within or among the household income categories, and may render direct comparisons between quintiles difficult or even impossible.[3]

In 2007, the median annual household income rose 1.3% to $50,233.00 according to the Census Bureau.[4] The real median earnings of men who worked full time, year-round climbed between 2006 and 2007, from $43,460 to $45,113 (about 3.6 time minimum wage in 2006 to 3.7 time minimum wage in 2007). For women, the corresponding increase was from $33,437 to $35,102 (2.8 and 2.9 times minimum wage respectively). The median income per household member (including all working and non-working members above the age of 14) was $26,036 in 2006.[5] In 2006, there were approximately 116,011,000 households in the United States. 1.93% of all households had annual incomes exceeding $250,000.[6] 12.3% fell below the federal poverty threshold[7] and the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178.[8] The aggregate income distribution is highly concentrated towards the top, with the top 6.37% earning roughly one third of all income, and those with upper-middle incomes control a large, though declining, share of the total earned income.[3][9] Income inequality in the United States, which had decreased slowly after World War II until 1970, began to increase in the 1970s until reaching a peak in 2006. It declined a little in 2007.[10] Households in the top quintile, 77% of which had two or more income earners, had incomes exceeding $91,705. Households in the mid quintile, with a mean of approximately one income earner per household had incomes between $36,000 and $57,657. Households in the lowest quintile had incomes less than $19,178 and the majority had no income earner.[11]

The 2006 economic survey also found that households in the top two income quintiles, those with an annual household income exceeding $60,000, had a median of two income earners while those in the lower quintiles (2nd and middle quintile) had median of only one income earner per household. Due to high unemployment among those in the lowest quintile the median number of income earners for this particular group was zero.[6] Overall, the United States followed the trend of other developed nations with a relatively large population of relatively affluent households outnumbering the poor. Among those in between the extremes of the income strata are a large number of households with moderately high middle class incomes[9] and an even larger number of households with moderately low incomes.[6] While the median household income has increased 30% since 1990, it has increased only slightly when considering inflation. In 1990, the median household income was $30,056 or $44,603 in 2003 dollars. While personal income has remained relatively stagnant over the past few decades, household income has risen due to the rising percentage of households with two or more income earners. Between 1999 and 2004 household income stagnated showing a slight increase since 2004.[12][13] According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita income has increased every year for the past 10 years, with an annual average of 5.2% gains for the past 4 years. The recently released US Income Mobility Study showed economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Income mobility of individuals was considerable in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period with roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom quintile moving up to a higher income group within 10 years. In addition, the median incomes of those initially in the lower income groups increased more than the median incomes of those initially in the higher income groups.[14]

Contents

Household income in the US

This graph shows the percentage of the population per income groups $10,000 increments apart, except for the furthest two right columns which are separated by increments of $50,000


The above graph shows the number earning the amount shown on the graph or more.[6]
This graph shows the percentage of persons and households in each of the income groups shown.[6]
Income range Households
(thousands)
Percent Percent below Mean number of earners Mean household size
$0 to $25,000 (28.22%) 0 2
Under $2,500 190 0 0 0.23 1.97
$2,500 to $4,999 1,389 1.22% 2.26% 0.52 2.04
$5,000 to $7,499 2,490 2.20% 3.48% 0.39 1.76
$7,500 to $9,999 3,360 2.96% 5.68% 0.33 1.66
$10,000 to $12,499 4,013 3.54% 8.64% 0.46 1.71
$12,500 to $14,999 3,543 3.13% 12.18% 0.50 1.84
$15,000 to $17,499 3,760 3.32% 15.31% 0.67 1.99
$17,500 to $19,999 3,438 3.03% 18.63% 0.73 2.10
$20,000 to $22,499 4,061 3.58% 21.66% 0.84 2.11
$22,500 to $24,999 3,375 2.98% 25.24% 0.79 2.14
$25,000 to $50,000 (26.65%) 1 2.5
$25,000 to $27,499 3,938 3.48% 28.22% 0.93 2.21
$27,500 to $29,999 2,889 2.55% 31.70% 1.01 2.30
$30,000 to $32,499 3,921 3.46% 34.25% 1.12 2.38
$32,500 to $34,999 2,727 2.41% 37.71% 1.17 2.39
$35,000 to $37,499 3,360 2.96% 40.12% 1.22 2.36
$37,500 to $39,999 2,633 2.32% 43.08% 1.25 2.49
$40,000 to $42,499 3,378 2.98% 45.40% 1.31 2.46
$42,500 to $44,999 2,294 2.02% 48.38% 1.38 2.60
National Median $44,389 50.00% 1.35 2.57
$45,000 to $47,499 2,700 2.38% 50.40% 1.39 2.60
$47,500 to $49,999 2,371 2.09% 52.78% 1.49 2.62
$50,000 to $75,000 (18.27%) 2 3
$50,000 to $52,499 3,071 2.71% 54.87% 1.46 2.60
$52,500 to $54,999 2,006 1.77% 57.58% 1.58 2.72
$55,000 to $57,499 2,420 2.13% 59.35% 1.61 2.75
$57,500 to $59,999 1,786 1.57% 61.48% 1.70 2.87
$60,000 to $62,499 2,566 2.26% 63.05% 1.63 2.82
$62,500 to $64,999 1,774 1.56% 65.31% 1.79 2.89
$65,000 to $67,499 2,101 1.85% 66.87% 1.81 2.93
$67,500 to $69,999 1,637 1.44% 68.72% 1.74 2.80
$70,000 to $72,499 1,978 1.74% 70.16% 1.77 2.88
$72,500 to $74,999 1,413 1.24% 71.90% 1.82 3.00
$75,000 to $100,000 (10.93%) 2 3
$75,000 to $77,499 1,802 1.59% 73.14% 1.82 2.95
$77,500 to $79,999 1,264 1.11% 74.73% 1.98 3.04
$80,000 to $82,499 1,673 1.47% 75.84% 1.89 3.01
$82,500 to $84,999 1,219 1.07% 77.31% 1.97 3.10
$85,000 to $87,499 1,418 1.25% 78.38% 1.94 3.00
$87,500 to $89,999 984 0.86% 79.63% 1.98 3.03
$90,000 to $92,499 1,282 1.13% 80.49% 1.95 3.03
$92,500 to $94,999 917 0.81% 81.62% 2.17 3.25
$95,000 to $97,499 1,023 0.90% 82.43% 2.06 3.29
$97,500 to $99,999 846 0.74% 83.33% 2.12 3.33
$100,000 or more (15.73%) 2 3
$100,000 to $149,999 11,194 9.89% 84.27% ca. 2 ca. 3
$150,000 to $199,999 3,595 3.17% 94.16%
$200,000 to $249,999 1,325 1.17% 97.33%
$250,000 and above 1,699 1.50% 98.50%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2005[6]

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Quintiles

Households are often divided into quintiles according to their gross income. Each quintile represents 20%, or one fifth, of all households.

Household type is strongly correlated with household income. Married couples are disproportionately represented in the upper two quintiles, compared to the general population of households. Cross-referencing shows that this is likely due to the presence of multiple income earners in these families. Non-family households (individuals) are disproportionately represented in the lower two quintiles. Households headed by single males are disproportionately found in the middle three quintles; single females head households concentrated in the bottom three quintiles.

The highest income households are almost ten times as likely to own their homes rather than rent, but in the lowest quintile, the ratio of owners to renters is nearly one to one.

The New York Times has used the quintiles to define class. It has assigned the quintiles from lowest to highest as bottom fifth, lower middle, middle, upper middle, and top fifth.[15]

Data All households Lowest fifth Second fifth Middle fifth Fourth fifth Highest fifth Top 5%
Households (in 1000s) 113,146 22,629 22,629 22,629 22,629 22,629 5,695
Lower limit $0 $0 $18,500 $34,738 $55,331 $88,030 $157,176
Median number of income earners 1 0 1 1 2 2 2
Tenure
Owner occupied 62.4% 49.0% 58.8% 68.9% 80.5% 90.0% 92.8%
Renter occupied 29.2% 48.3% 39.7% 29.9% 18.7% 9.6% 6.9%
Type of household
Non-family households 31.93% 58.92% 40.02% 29.96% 19.12% 11.64% 9.36%
Family households 68.06% 41.06% 59.97% 70.04% 80.87% 88.35% 90.61%
Breakdown of family households
Married couple families 51.35% 19.03% 38.89% 51.00% 67.05% 80.08% 85.59%
Single-male family 4.32% 3.08% 4.64% 5.69% 4.89% 3.30% 2.47%
Single-female family 12.38% 18.94% 16.43% 13.35% 8.93% 4.24% 2.54%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[16]

Race

Race Income.png

personal and household income
in 2005
Percent of households with six figure incomes and individuals with incomes in the top 10%, exceeding $77,500.

Despite advances minorities have made to exit poverty and with many Black Americans and Latino Americans joining the middle class, there is still an uneven racial distribution among the income quintiles. While White Americans made up roughly 75.1% of all persons in 2000,[17] 87.93% of all households in the top 5% were headed by a person who identified as being White alone. Only 4.75% of all household in the top 5% were headed by someone who identified him or herself as being Hispanic or Latino of any race,[18] versus 12.5% of persons identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the general population.[17] Overall, 86.01% of all households in the top two quintiles with upper-middle range incomes of over $55,331 were headed by a head of household who identified him or herself as White alone, while only 7.21% were being headed by someone who identified as being Hispanic and 7.37% by someone who identified as being African American or Black.[18] Overall, households headed by Hispanics and African Americans or Blacks were underrepresented in the top two quintiles and overrepresented in the bottom two quintiles. Households headed by persons who identified as being Asian alone, on the other hand, were overrepresented among the top two quintiles. In the top five percent the percentage of Asians was nearly twice as high as the percentage of Asians among the general population. European-Americans were relatively even distributed throughout the quintiles only being underrepresented in the lowest quintile and slightly overrepresented in the top quintile and the top five percent.[18]

Race All households Lowest fifth Second fifth Middle fifth Fourth fifth Highest fifth Top 5%
White alone Number in 1000s 92,702 16,940 18,424 18,978 19,215 19,721 5,695
Percentage 81.93% 74.87% 81.42% 83.87% 84.92% 87.16% 87.93%
Asian alone Number in 1000s 4,140 624 593 786 871 1,265 366
Percentage 3.65% 2.76% 2.26% 3.47% 3.84% 5.59% 6.46%
African American or Black Number in 1000s 13,792 4,474 3,339 2,637 2,053 1,287 236
Percentage 12.19% 19.77% 14.75% 11.65% 9.07% 5.69% 1.04%
Hispanic or Latino
(of any race)
Number in 1000s 12,838 3,023 3,130 2,863 1,931 1,204 269
Percentage 11.33% 13.56% 13.83% 12.20% 8.53% 5.89% 1.19%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[18]

Education and Gender

This graph shows the median household income in accordance with the householder's educational attainment. The data only applies to household with a householder over the age of twenty-five.[19]

Household income as well as per capita income in the United States rise significantly as the educational attainment increases.[20] In 2005 graduates with a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) who accepted job offers are expected to earn a base salary of $88,626. They are also expected to receive an "average signing bonus of $17,428."[21] According to the US Census Bureau persons with doctorates in the United States had an average income of roughly $81,400. The average for an advanced degree was $72,824 with men averaging $90,761 and women averaging $50,756 annually. Year-round full-time workers with a professional degree had an average income of $109,600 while those with a Master's degree had an average income of $62,300. Overall, "…[a]verage earnings ranged from $18,900 for high school dropouts to $25,900 for high school graduates, $45,400 for college graduates and $99,300 for workers with professional degrees (M.D., D.P.T., D.O., J.D., Pharm.D., D.D.S., or D.V.M.).[22]

Considering how education significantly enhances the earnings potential of individuals, it should come as no surprise that individuals with graduate degrees have an average per capita income exceeding the median household income of married couple families among the general population ($63,813).[22][23] Higher educational attainment did not, however, help close the income gap between the genders as the life-time earnings for a male with a professional degree were roughly forty percent (39.59%) higher than those of a female with a professional degree. The lifetime earnings gap between males and females was the smallest for those individuals holding an Associate degrees with male life-time earnings being 27.77% higher than those of females. While educational attainment did not help reduce the income inequality between men and women, it did increase the earnings potential of individuals of both sexes, enabling many households with one or more graduate degree householders to enter the top household income quintile.[22]

Household income also increased significantly with the educational attainment of the householder. The US Census Bureau publishes educational attainment and income data for all households with a householder who was aged twenty-five or older. The biggest income difference was between those with some college education and those who had a Bachelor's degree, with the latter making $23,874 more annually. Income also increased substantially with increased post-secondary education. While the median household income for a household with a householder having an Associates degree was $51,970, the median household income for householders with a Bachelor's degree or higher was $73,446. Those with doctorates had the second highest median household with a median of $96,830; $18,289 more than that for those at the Master's degree level, but $3,170 lower than the median for households with a professional degree holding householder.[19]

Criteria Overall Less than 9th grade High school drop-out High school graduate Some college Associates degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree or more Master's degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
Median individual income Male, age 25+ $33,517 $15,461 $18,990 $28,763 $35,073 $39,015 $50,916 $55,751 $61,698 $88,530 $73,853
Female, age 25+ $19,679 $9,296 $10,786 $15,962 $21,007 $24,808 $31,309 $35,125 $41,334 $48,536 $53,003
Both sexes, age 25+ $32,140 $17,422 $20,321 $26,505 $31,054 $35,009 $43,143 $49,303 $52,390 $82,473 $70,853
Median household income $45,016 $18,787 $22,718 $36,835 $45,854 $51,970 $68,728 $73,446 $78,541 $100,000 $96,830

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2003[19][24]

This graph shows the median household income in 2003 dollars according to educational attainment.[19]

The change in median personal and household since 1991 also varied greatly with educational attainment. The following table shows the median household income according to the educational attainment of the householder. All data is in 2003 dollars and only applies to householders whose householder is aged twenty-five or older. The highest and lowest points of the median household income are presented in bold face.[19][24] Since 2003, median income has continued to rise for the nation as a whole, with the biggest gains going to those with Associate's Degrees, Bachelor's Degree or More, and Master's Degrees. High-school dropouts fared worse with negative growth.







Year Overall Median Less than 9th grade High school drop-out High school graduate Some college Associates degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree or more Master's degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
1991 $40,873 $17,414 $23,096 $37,520 $46,296 $52,289 $64,150 $68,845 $72,669 $102,667 $92,614
1993 $40,324 $17,450 $22,523 $35,979 $44,153 $49,622 $64,537 $70,349 $75,645 $109,900 $93,712
1995 $42,235 $18,031 $21,933 $37,609 $44,537 $50,485 $63,357 $69,584 $77,865 $98,302 $95,899
1997 $43,648 $17,762 $22,688 $38,607 $45,734 $51,726 $67,487 $72,338 $77,850 $105,409 $99,699
1999 $46,236 $19,008 $23,977 $39,322 $48,588 $54,282 $70,925 $76,958 $82,097 $110,383 $107,217
2001 $42,900 $18,830 $24,162 $37,468 $47,605 $53,166 $69,796 $75,116 $81,993 $103,918 $96,442
2003 $45,016 $18,787 $22,718 $36,835 $45,854 $56,970 $68,728 $73,446 $78,541 $100,000 $96,830
Average $43,376 $18,183 $23,013 $37,620 $46,109 $51,934 $66,997 $72,376 $78,094 $104,368 $94,487

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2003[19]

Age of householder

Household income in the United States varies substantially with the age of the person who heads the household. Overall, the median household income increased with the age of householder until retirement age when household income started to decline.[25] The highest median household income was found among households headed by working baby-boomers.[25] Households headed by persons between the ages of 45 and 54 had a median household income of $61,111 and a mean household income of $77,634. The median income per member of household for this particular group was $27,924. The highest median income per member of household was among those between the ages of 54 and 64 with $30,544 [The reason this figure is lower than the next group is because Pensions and Social Security add to income while a portion of older individuals also have work-related income.]). The group with the second highest median household income, were households headed by persons between the ages 35 and 44 with a median income of $56,785, followed by those in the age group between 55 and 64 with $50,400. Not surprisingly the lowest income group was composed of those households headed by individuals younger than 24, followed by those headed by persons over the age of 75. Overall, households headed by persons above the age of seventy-five had a median household income of $20,467 with the median household income per member of household being $18,645. These figures support the general assumption that median household income as well as the median income per member of household peaked among those households headed by middle aged persons, increasing with the age of the householder and the size of the household until the householder reaches the age of 64. With retirement income replacing salaries and the size of the household declining, the median household income decreases as well.[25]

Aggregate income distribution

The aggregate income measures the combined income earned by all persons in a particular income group. In 2007, all households in the United States earned roughly $7.896 trillion [26]. One half, 49.98%, of all income in the US was earned by households with an income over $100,000, the top twenty percent. Over one quarter, 28.5%, of all income was earned by the top 8%, those households earning more than $150,000 a year. The top 3.65%, with incomes over $200,000, earned 17.5%. Households with annual incomes from $50,000 to $75,000, 18.2% of households, earned 16.5% of all income. Households with annual incomes from $50,000 to $95,000, 28.1% of households, earned 28.8% of all income. The bottom 10.3% earned 1.06% of all income.

Distribution of Income

Before-Tax Family Income in the U.S. from 1989-2004[27]
(thousands of 2004 dollars)
before tax family income (mean)
Percentiles of net worth 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004
90-100 205.1 158.5 172.8 206.3 272.7 256.2
75-89.9 74.6 67.0 65.0 78.3 83.7 87.9
50-74.9 52.9 48.1 50.1 54.3 62.7 60.6
25-49.9 36.9 36.4 38.6 39.3 42.1 42.2
Less than 25 21.5 22.9 22.9 23.6 25.6 25.1
before tax family income (median)
Percentiles of net worth 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004
90-100 114.7 106.6 99.1 102.4 134.7 143.8
75-89.9 61.2 56.7 52.6 65.8 74.1 77.0
50-74.9 46.3 43.2 43.6 47.0 54.4 52.4
25-49.9 32.3 32.2 35.3 35.3 37.2 37.0
Less than 25 15.3 17.2 17.8 18.5 21.0 20.5

Household income over time

Please note that all figures are presented in 2003 dollars.

This graph shows the income of the given percentiles from 1967 to 2003, in 2003 dollars.[28]
Median household income between 1965 and 2005. Graph by the US Census Bureau.[29]

Since 1967, the median household income in the United States has risen by 31%, fluctuating several times. The rise in household income is largely the result of an increase in personal income among college graduates, a group that has doubled in size since the 1960s, and women entering the labor force. Today, 42% of all households have two income earners. Household income increased dramatically faster for affluent households with income inequality having increased steadily since the 1970s.[30][31]

While household income has increased, its growth has been slowed by a decrease in married-couple households who tend to have two earners and, therefore, higher incomes. While the proportion of wives working year-round in married couple households with children has increased from 17% in 1967 to 39% in 1996, the proportion of such households among the general population has decreased. This means that the share the most economically prosperous type of household has been dwindling in the United States. In 1969, more than 40% of all households consisted of a married couple with children. By 1996 only a rough quarter of US households consisted of married couples with children. As a result of these changing household demographics, median household income rose relatively slowly despite an ever increasing female labor force and a considerable increase in the percentage of college graduates.[32]

"From 1969 to 1996, median household income rose a very modest 6.3 percent in constant dollars... The 1969 to 1996 stagnation in median household income may, in fact, be largely a reflection of changes in the size and composition of households rather than a reflection of a stagnating economy."- John McNeil, US Census Bureau

Overall, the median household income rose from $33,338 in 1967 to an all-time high of $44,922 in 1999, and has since decreased slightly to $43,318. Decreases in household income are visible during each recession, while increases are visible during economic upturns. These fluctuations were felt across the income strata as the incomes of both, the 95th and 20th percentile were affected by fluctuations in the economy. Income in the period between 1967 and 1999 grew considerably faster among wealthier households than it did among poorer households. For example the household income for the 80th precentile, the lower threshold for the top quintile, rose from $55,265 in 1967 to $86,867 in 2003, a 57.2% increase. The median household income rose by 30% while the income for the 20th percentile (the lower threshold for the second lowest quintile) rose by only 28% from $14,002 to $17,984. As the majority of households in the top quintile had two income earners, versus zero for the lowest quintile and that the widening gap between the top and lowest quintile may largely be the reflection of changing household demographics including the addition of women to the workforce.[28][32] Household demographics are not, however, the cause of the growing gap between the top 5% and the rest of the upper quintile. The top 5% had fewer dual earner households and full-time workers than the top quintile overall. In 2003 a household in the 95th percentile earned 77.2% more than a household in the 80th percentile, compared to 60.5% in 1967, a 27.6% increase in the earnings increase discrepancy between the two groups. Overall the income of the 95th percentile grew 15.2% faster than that of the 80th, 146.8% faster than that of the median and 159.9% faster than that of the 20th percentile.[33]

Households in the top 1% experienced the by far greatest increases in household income. According to economist Janet Yellen "the growth [in real income] was heavily concentrated at the very tip of the top, that is, the top 1 percent."[34] A 2006 analysis of IRS income data by economists Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley and Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics showed that the share of income held by the top 1% was as large in 2005 as in 1928. The data revealed that reported income increased by 9% in 2005, with the mean for the top 1% increasing by 14% and that for the bottom 90% dropping slightly by 0.6%.[35]

While per-capita, disposable income has increased 469% since 1972, it has only increased moderately when inflation is considered. In 1972, disposable personal income was determined to be $4,129; $19,385 in 2005 dollars. In 2005, disposable personal income was, however, $27,640, a 43% increase.[36][37] Since the late 1990s, household income has fallen slightly.[38]

Data 2003 2000 1997 1994 1991 1988 1985 1982 1979 1976 1973 1970 1967
20th percentile   $17,984   $19,142   $17,601   $16,484   $16,580   $17,006   $16,306   $15,548   $16,457   $15,615   $15,844  $15,126  $14,002
Median (50th)   $43,318   $44,853   $42,294   $39,613   $39,679   $40,678   $38,510   $36,811   $38,649   $36,155   $37,700  $35,832  $33,338
80th percentile   $86,867   $87,341   $81,719   $77,154   $74,759   $75,593   $71,433   $66,920   $68,318   $63,247   $64,500  $60,148  $55,265
95th percentile  $154,120   $155,121   $144,636   $134,835   $126,969   $127,958   $119,459   $111,516   $111,445   $100,839   $102,243   $95,090   $88,678 

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[28] (Page 44/45)

International comparison

Median household income and GDP per capita levels in selected developed nations.

Median household income for other countries is shown in the table below. The data for each country has been converted to US dollars using Purchasing Power Parity (obtained from the OECD).[39] Median household income in the United States remains slightly higher than in the UK and Ireland, yet lower than that of Switzerland. It is important to note that the differences in median household income between US states can be as large as those between the developed nations. The median household income of the UK, for example, is comparable to that of Florida or South Carolina, while Switzerland is comparable to New Jersey or New Hampshire.

Country Median household income national currency units Year PPP rate (OECD) Median household income (PPP)
Switzerland[40] (gross) 107,748 CHF, $99,482 2007 1.787236 $60,288
California, US[41] 55,450 USD 2007 1.00 $55,450
United States 50,233 USD 2007 1.00 $50,233
Canada [42] 53,634 CAD 2005 1.21 $44,000
Switzerland[40] (after taxes and health insurance) 75,312 CHF, $69,534 2007 1.723465 $43,698
New Zealand [43] 62,556 NZD 2007 1.54 $41,000
United Kingdom [44] 24,700 GBP 2004 0.632 $39,000
Australia[45] 53,404 AUD 2006 1.41 $38,000
Israel[46] 107,820 ILS 2006 2.90 $37,000
Ireland 35,410 EUR 2005 1.02 $35,000
Scotland,
United Kingdom[47]
21,892 GBP 2005 0.649 $34,000
West Virginia, US[48] US state $33,000
Hong Kong[49] 186,000 HKD 2005 5.96 $31,000
Singapore[50] 45,960 SGD 2005 1.55 $30,000

Social class

Household income is one of the most commonly used measures of income and, therefore, also one of the most prominent indicators of social class. Household income and education do not, however, always reflect perceived class status correctly. Sociologist Dennis Gilbert acknowledges that "... the class structure... does not exactly match the distribution of household income" with "the mismatch [being] greatest in the middle..." (Gilbert, 1998: 92) As social classes commonly overlap, it is not possible to define exact class boundaries. According to Leonard Beeghley[citation needed] a household income of roughly $95,000 would be typical of a dual-earner middle class household while $60,000 would be typical of a dual-earner working class household and $18,000 typical for an impoverished household. William Thompson and Joseph Hickey[citation needed] see common incomes for the upper class as those exceeding $500,000 with upper middle class incomes ranging from the high 5-figures to most commonly in excess of $100,000. They claim the lower middle class ranges from $35,000 to $75,000; $16,000 to $30,000 for the working class and less than $16,000 for the lower class.

Academic Class Models
Dennis Gilbert, 2002 William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005 Leonard Beeghley, 2004
Class Typical characteristics Class Typical characteristics Class Typical characteristics
Capitalist class (1%) Top-level executives, high-rung politicians, heirs. Ivy League education common. Upper class 1% Top-level executives, celebrities, heirs; income of $500,000+ common. Ivy league education common. The super-rich (0.9%) Multi-millionaires whose incomes commonly exceed $350,000; includes celebrities and powerful executives/politicians. Ivy League education common.
The Rich (5%) Households with net worth of $1 million or more; largely in the form of home equity. Generally have college degrees.
Upper middle class[1] (15%) Highly educated (often with graduate degrees), most commonly salaried, professionals and middle management with large work autonomy Upper middle class[1] (15%) Highly educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals & managers with household incomes varying from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000
Middle class (plurality/
majority?; ca. 46%)
College educated workers with incomes considerably above-average incomes and compensation; a man making $57,000 and a woman making $40,000 may be typical.
Lower middle class (30%) Semi-professionals and craftsmen with a roughly average standard of living. Most have some college education and are white collar. Lower middle class (32%) Semi-professionals and craftsman with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education.
Working class (30%) Clerical and most blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized. Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners, but is commonly just adequate. High school education.
Working class (32%) Clerical, pink and blue collar workers with often low job security; common household incomes range from $16,000 to $30,000. High school education. Working class
(ca. 40% - 45%)
Blue collar workers and those whose jobs are highly routinized with low economic security; a man making $40,000 and a woman making $26,000 may be typical. High school education.
Working poor (13%) Service, low-rung clerical and some blue collar workers. High economic insecurity and risk of poverty. Some high school education.
Lower class (ca. 14% - 20%) Those who occupy poorly-paid positions or rely on government transfers. Some high school education.
Underclass (12%) Those with limited or no participation in the labor force. Reliant on government transfers. Some high school education. The poor (ca. 12%) Those living below the poverty line with limited to no participation in the labor force; a household income of $18,000 may be typical. Some high school education.
References: Gilbert, D. (2002) The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; Thompson, W. & Hickey, J. (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon; Beeghley, L. (2004). The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.
1 The upper middle class may also be referred to as "Professional class" Ehrenreich, B. (1989). The Inner Life of the Middle Class. NY, NY: Harper-Colins.

Income by state

A house in Salinas, California. In 2004, California was the most expensive state in the nation[51] and had a median household income of $49,894 (rank 13).[52]

In 2008 (see the table below), the median household income by state ranged from $37,790 in Mississippi to $70,545 in Maryland. California, with the highest median home price in the nation[51] and home prices that far outpaced incomes[53], only ranked ninth with a median household income of $61,021.[52] While California's median income was not near enough to afford the average California home or even a starter home, West Virginia, which had one of the nation's lowest median household incomes, also had the nation's lowest median home price.[51][52] The northeastern states, more specifically those located in New England, along with the West Coast, had the highest median household income. By Census Bureau Region, of the top 15 states, only Minnesota is located in the Mid-West, while four are in the Northeast (New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire), three are in the South (Maryland, Virginia and Delaware), and the other seven are in the West.

The southern states had, by far, the lowest median household income, with nine of the country's fifteen poorest states located in the South. However, most of the poverty in the South is located in rural areas. Metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Birmingham, Dallas, Houston, and Miami, are areas within the southern states that have above average income levels. Overall, median household income tended to be the highest in the nation's most urbanized northeastern, upper midwestern and west coast states, while rural areas, mostly in the southern and mountain states, had the lowest median household income.[52]

Median Household Income by State[54]

Rank State 2008 2007 2004-2006
1 Maryland $70,545 $68,080 $62,372
2 New Jersey $70,378 $67,035 $64,169
3 Connecticut $68,595 $65,967 $59,972
4 Alaska $68,460 $64,333 $57,639
5 Hawaii $67,214 $63,746 $60,681
6 Massachusetts $65,401 $62,365 $56,236
7 New Hampshire $63,731 $62,369 $60,489
8 Virginia $61,233 $59,562 $55,108
9 California $61,021 $59,948 $53,770
10 Washington $58,078 $55,591 $53,439
11 Delaware $57,989 $54,610 $52,214
District of Columbia $57,936 $54,317 $47,221 (2005)[1]PDF
12 Minnesota $57,288 $55,082 $57,363
13 Colorado $56,993 $55,212 $54,039
14 Utah $56,633 $55,109 $55,179
15 Nevada $56,361 $55,062 $50,819
16 Illinois $56,235 $54,124 $49,280
17 New York $56,033 $53,514 $48,201
18 Rhode Island $55,701 $53,568 $52,003
19 Wyoming $53,207 $51,731 $47,227
20 Vermont $52,104 $49,907 $51,622
21 Wisconsin $52,094 $50,578 $48,874
United States $52,029 $50,740 $46,242 (2005) [2]PDF
22 Arizona $50,958 $49,889 $46,729
23 Georgia $50,861 $49,136 $46,841
24 Pennsylvania $50,713 $48,576 $47,791
25 Kansas $50,177 $47,451 $44,264
26 Oregon $50,169 $48,730 $45,485
27 Texas $50,043 $47,548 $43,425
28 Nebraska $49,693 $47,085 $48,126
29 Iowa $48,980 $47,292 $47,489
30 Michigan $48,591 $47,950 $47,064
31 Ohio $47,988 $46,597 $45,837
32 Indiana $47,966 $47,448 $44,806
33 Florida $47,778 $47,804 $44,448
34 Idaho $47,576 $46,253 $46,395
35 Missouri $46,867 $45,114 $44,651
36 Maine $46,581 $45,888 $45,040
37 North Carolina $46,549 $44,670 $42,061
38 South Dakota $46,032 $43,424 $44,624
39 North Dakota $45,685 $43,753 $43,753
40 South Carolina $44,625 $43,329 $40,822
41 Louisiana $43,733 $40,926 $37,943
42 Montana $43,654 $43,531 $38,629
43 Tennessee $43,614 $42,367 $40,676
44 New Mexico $43,508 $41,452 $40,827
45 Oklahoma $42,822 $41,567 $40,001
46 Alabama $42,666 $40,554 $38,473
47 Kentucky $41,538 $40,267 $38,466
48 Arkansas $38,815 $38,134 $37,420
49 West Virginia $37,989 $37,060 $37,227
50 Mississippi $37,790 $36,338 $35,261
Puerto Rico $18,401 $17,741 $17,184 (2005)[3]PDF

Median income

The median income divides households in the US evenly in the middle with half of all household earning more than the median income and half of all households earning less than the median household income. In 2004 the median household income in the United States was $44,389.[6] According to the US Census Bureau, the median is "considerably lower than the average, and provides a more accurate representation."[55] Considering other racial and geographical differences in regards to household income, it should come as no surprise that the median household income varies with race, size of household and geography. The state with the highest median household income in the United States as of the US Census Bureau 2005/06 is New Jersey with $66,752, followed by Maryland, Hawaii and Connecticut, making the Northeastern United States the wealthiest area by income in the entire country.[56] In terms of region the median household income was as follows: "Northeast ($47,994), West ($47,680) and South ($40,773)." Median household income in the Mid-West declined by 2.8% to $44,657.[57] While median household income has a tendency to increase up to four persons per household, it declines thereon after. This indicated that while four person households have larger incomes than those with one, two or three members, households seem to earn progressively less as their size increases beyond four persons. According to the US Census Bureau 2004 Community Survey, two-person households had a median income of $39,755, with $48,957 for three-person households, $54,338 for four-person households, $50,905 for five-person households, $45,435 for six-person households, with seven-or-more-person households having the second lowest median income of only $42,471..[58] In terms of race, Asian-Americans households had the highest median household income of $57,518, European-American households ranked second with $48,977, Hispanic or Latino households ranked third with $34,241. African American or Black households had the lowest median household income of all races with $30,134.[57]

Mean income

Another common measurement of personal income is the mean household income Unlike the median household income, which divides all households in two halves, the mean income is the average income earned by American households. In the case of mean income, the income of all households is divided by the number of all households.[59] The mean income is usually more affected by the relatively unequal distribution of income which tilts towards the top.[55] As a result, the mean tends to be higher than the median income, with the top earning households boosting it. Overall, the mean household income in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau 2004 Economic Survey, was $60,528, or $17,210 (39.73%) higher than the median household income.[60]

"Median income is the amount which divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount. Mean income (average) is the amount obtained by dividing the total aggregate income of a group by the number of units in that group. The means and medians for households and families are based on all households and families. Means and medians for people are based on people 15 years old and over with income."[59]
-US Census Bureau, Frequently Asked Question, published by First Gov.

The mean household income for households headed by persons identifying as White alone was $65,317, $40,685 for those headed by persons identifying as African American or Black, $45,871 for those headed by persons identifying as Hispanic or Latino, and $76,747 for those households headed by persons identifying as Asian alone. Approximately one third, or 36.5%, of all households earned more than the mean income, while 63.5% earned less than the mean.[60]

See also

Income in the United States
Household income in the United States
Personal income in the United States
Affluence in the United States
Income inequality in the United States

Income by:

State (localities by state)
County (highest | lowest)
Metropolitan area
Place
Urban Areas
ZCTAs (Zip Codes)
Class

References

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External links


Simple English


The Household income in the United States is a measure of current private income commonly used by the United States government and private institutions. To measure the income of a household, the pre-tax money receipts of all residents over the age of 15 are combined. Most of these receipts are in the form of wages and salaries (before withholding and other taxes), but many other forms of income, such as unemployment insurance, disability, child support, etc., are included as well. The residents of the household do not have to be related to the householder for their earnings to be considered part of the household's income.[1] While the use of household income remains among the most widely accepted as households tend to share a common economic fate, the size of a household which is commonly not considered may off-set gains in household income.[2]

In 2005, the median annual household income according to the US Census Bureau was determined to be $46,326,[3] similar to that of Canada which was roughly $41,510 (USD) in the year 2000.[4] The median income per household member (including all working and non-working members above the age of 14) in the year 2003 was $23,535.[5] In the year 2005, there were approximately 113,146,000 households in the United States. 17.23% of all households had annual incomes exceeding $100,000,[6] while another 12.7% fell below the federal poverty threshold[7] while the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178.[8] While the aggregate income distribution tends to tilt towards the top with the top 6.37% earning roughly one third of all income, those with upper-middle incomes also controlled a large, though declining, share of the total earned income.[2][9] Households in the top quintile, 77% of which had two income earners, had incomes exceeding $91,705. Households in the mid quintile, with a mean of one income earner per household had incomes between $36,000 and 57,657.[8]

The 2005 economic survey also found that households in the top two income quintiles, those with an annual household income exceeding $55,331, had a median of two income earners while those in the lower quintiles (2nd and middle quintile) had median of only one income earner per household. Due to high unemployment among those in the lowest quintile the median number of income earners for this particular group was determined to be zero.[6] Overall the United States followed the trend of other developed nations with a relatively large population of relatively rich households outnumbering the poor. Among those in-between the relative extremes of the income strata a large and quite powerful section of households with moderately high middle class incomes[9] and an even larger number of households with moderately low incomes.[6] While the median household income has increased 44% since 1990 it has decreased very slightly when considering inflation. In 1990, the median household income was determined to be $30,056; $44,603 in 2003 dollars. While personal income has remained relatively stagnant since over the past few decades, household income has risen due to the rising percentage of households with two or more income earners. Between 1999 and 2004 household income stagnated showing a slight increase since 2004.[10][11]

Contents

Income distribution

Income range Households
(thousands)
Percent
$0 to $25,000 (28.22%)
Under $2,5002,5662.26%
$2,500 to $4,9991,3891.22%
$5,000 to $7,4992,4902.20%
$7,500 to $9,9993,3602.96%
$10,000 to $12,4994,0133.54%
$12,500 to $14,9993,5433.13%
$15,000 to $17,4993,7603.32%
$17,500 to $19,9993,4383.03%
$20,000 to $22,4994,0613.58%
$22,500 to $24,9993,3752.98%
$25,000 to $50,000 (26.65%)
$25,000 to $27,4993,9383.48%
$27,500 to $29,9992,8892.55%
$30,000 to $32,4993,9213.46%
$32,500 to $34,9992,7272.41%
$35,000 to $37,4993,3602.96%
$37,500 to $39,9992,6332.32%
$40,000 to $42,4993,3782.98%
$42,500 to $44,9992,2942.02%
$45,000 to $47,4992,7002.38%
$47,500 to $49,9992,3712.09%
$50,000 to $75,000 (18.27%)
$50,000 to $52,4993,0712.71%
$52,500 to $54,9992,0061.77%
$55,000 to $57,4992,4202.13%
$57,500 to $59,9991,7861.57%
$60,000 to $62,4992,5662.26%
$62,500 to $64,9991,7741.56%
$65,000 to $67,4992,1011.85%
$67,500 to $69,9991,6371.44%
$70,000 to $72,4991,9781.74%
$72,500 to $74,9991,4131.24%
$75,000 to $100,000 (10.93%)
$75,000 to $77,4991,8021.59%
$77,500 to $79,9991,2641.11%
$80,000 to $82,4991,6731.47%
$82,500 to $84,9991,2191.07%
$85,000 to $87,4991,4181.25%
$87,500 to $89,9999840.86%
$90,000 to $92,4991,2821.13%
$92,500 to $94,9999170.81%
$95,000 to $97,4991,0230.90%
$97,500 to $99,9998460.74%
$100,000 or more (15.73%)
$100,000 to $149,99911,1949.89%
$150,000 to $199,9993,5953.17%
$200,000 to $249,9991,3251.17%
$250,000 and above1,6991.50%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2005[6]

Quintiles, household type, and home ownership

Households are often divided into quintiles according to their gross income. Each quintile represents 20%, or one fifth, of the population.

Household type is strongly correlated with household income. Married couples are disproportionately represented in the upper two quintiles, compared to the general population of households. Cross-referencing shows that this is likely due to the presence of multiple income earners in these families. Non-family households (individuals) are disproportionately represented in the lower two quintiles. Households headed by single males are disproportionately found in the middle three quintles; single females head households concentrated in the bottom three quintiles.

The highest income households are almost ten times as likely to own their homes rather than rent, but in the lowest quintile, the ratio of owners to renters is nearly one to one.

The New York Times has used the quintiles to define class. It has assigned the quintiles from lowest to highest as lower class, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and upper class.[12]

Data All households Lowest fifth Second fifth Middle fifth Fourth fifth Highest fifth Top 5%
Households (in 1000s)113,14622,62922,62922,62922,62922,6295,695
Lower limit$0$0$18,500$34,738$55,331$88,030$157,176
Median number of income earners1011222
Tenure
Owner occupied62.4%49.0%58.8%68.9%80.5%90.0%92.8%
Renter occupied29.2%48.3%39.7%29.9%18.7%9.6%6.9%
Type of household
Family households68.06%41.06%59.97%70.04%80.87%88.35%90.61%
Married couple families51.35%19.03%38.89%51.00%67.05%80.08%85.59%
Single-male family4.32%3.08%4.64%5.69%4.89%3.30%2.47%
Single-female family12.38%18.94%16.43%13.35%8.93%4.24%2.54%
Non-family households31.93%58.92%40.02%29.96%19.12%11.64%9.36%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[13]

Race

Despite great advances made to lift minorities out of poverty and many African Americans and Latino Americans joining the middle class, there is still an uneven racial distribution among the income quintiles. While White American who were not of Hispanic descent made up roughly 75.1% of all persons in 2000,[14] 87.93% of all households in the top 5% were headed by a person who identified as being White alone. Only 4.75% of all household in the top 5% were headed by someone who identified him or herself as being Hispanic or Latino of any race,[15] versus 12.5% of persons identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the general population.[14] Overall 86.01% of all households in the top two quintiles with upper-middle range incomes of over $55,331 were headed by a head of household who identified him or herself as White alone, while only 7.21% were being headed by someone who identified as being Hispanic and 7.37% by someone who idenitified as being African American or Black.[15] Overall households headed by Hispanics and African Americans or Blacks were underrepresented in the top two quintiles and overrepresented in the bottom two quintiles. Households headed by persons who identified as being Asian alone, on the other hand, were overrepresented among the top two quintiles. In the top five percent the percentage of Asians was nearly twice as high as the percentage of Asians among the general population. European-Americans were relatively even distributed throughout the quintiles only being underrepresented in the lowest quintile and slightly overrepresented in the top quintile and the top five percent.[15]

Race All households Lowest fifth Second fifth Middle fifth Fourth fifth Highest fifth Top 5%
White aloneNumber in 1000s92,70216,94018,42418,97819,21519,7215,695
Percentage81.93%74.87%81.42%83.87%84.92%87.16%87.93%
Asian aloneNumber in 1000s4,1406245937868711,265366
Percentage3.65%2.76%2.26%3.47%3.84%5.59%6.46%
African American or BlackNumber in 1000s13,7924,4743,3392,6372,0531,287236
Percentage12.19%19.77%14.75%11.65%9.07%5.69%1.04%
Hispanic or Latino
(of any race)
Number in 1000s12,8383,0233,1302,8631,9311,204269
Percentage11.33%13.56%13.83%12.20%8.53%5.89%1.19%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[15]

Education and Gender

Household income as well as per capita income in the United States rise significantly as the educational attainment increases.[16] In 2005 graduates with a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) who accepted job offers are expected to earn a base salary of $88,626. They are also expected to receive "…[a]n average signing bonus of $17,428."[17] According to the US Census Bureau persons with doctorates in the United States had an average income of roughly $81,400. The average for an advanced degree was $72,824 with men averaging $90,761 and women averaging $50,756 annually. Year-round full-time workers with a Professional degree had an average income of $109,600 while those with a Master's degree had an average income of $62,300. Overall "…[a]verage earnings ranged from $18,900 for high school dropouts to $25,900 for high school graduates, $45,400 for college graduates and $99,300 for workers with professional degrees (M.D., D.O., J.D., D.D.S., or D.V.M.). [18]

Considering how education significantly enhances the earnings potential of individuals, it should come as no surprise that individuals with graduate degrees have an average per capita income exceeding the median household income of married couple families among the general population ($63,813).[18][19] Higher educational attainment did not, however, help close the income gap between the genders as the life-time earnings for a male with a professionals degree were roughly forty percent (39.59%) higher than those of a female with a professionals degree. The life-time earnings gap between males and females was the smallest for those individuals holding an Associate degrees with male life-time earnings being 27.77% higher than those of females. While educational attainment did not help reduce the income inequality between men and women, it did increase the earnings potential of individuals of both sexes, greatly enabling many households with (a) graduate degree householder(s) to enter the top household income quintile.[18]

Household income also increased significantly with the educational attainment of the householder. The US Census Bureau publishes educational attainment and income data for all households with a householder who was aged twenty-five or older. The biggest income difference was between those with some college education and those who had a Bachelor's degree, with the latter making $23,874 more. Income also increased substantially with increased post-secondary education. While the median household income for a household with a household holding an Associates degree was $51,970, the median household income for those with a Bachelor's degree or higher was $73,446. Those with doctorates had the second highest median household with a median of $96,830; $18,289 more higher than that for those at the Master's degree level, but $3,170 lower than the median for households with a professionals degree holding householder.[20]

Criteria Overall Less than 9th grade High school drop-out High school graduate Some college Associates degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree or more Master's degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
Median individual incomeMale, age 25+$33,517$15,461$18,990$28,763$35,073$39,015$50,916$55,751$61,698$88,530$73,853
Female, age 25+$19,679$9,296$10,786$15,962$21,007$24,808$31,309$35,125$41,334$48,536$53,003
Both sexes, age 25+$32,140$17,422$20,321$26,505$31,054$35,009$43,143$49,303$52,39082,473$70,853
Median household income$45,016$18,787$22,718$36,835$45,854$51,970$68,728$73,446$78,541$100,000$96,830

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2003[20][21]

The change in median personal and household since 1991 also varied greatly with educational attainment. While, both the overall median personal and household icome increased since 1991, this increase did not take place on all levels of educational attainment. The overall income increased over the course of the 1990s, reaching its high in 1999, but decreasing has been ever since. In 1991 the median household income in the US was $40,873 in 2003 dollars, while the median household income in 2003 was $45,016. In 1999, however, the median household income was $46,236, 2.7% higher than today. While this trend held true for all levels of educational attainment the extend of chorinical falcutations in income were greatly influenced by educational attainment. Overall the median household and personal income decreased for those with more than a 9th grade education but less than a four-year college degree since 1991. In other words, the median household income decreased for households and individuals at the high school drop-outs and graduate, some-college, and an Associates degree level. Income did, however, increase for those with a Bachelor's degree or more. The following table shows the median household income according to the educational attainment of the householder. All data is in 2003 dollars and only applies to householders whose householder is aged twenty-five or older. The highest and lowest points of the median household income are presented in bold face.[20][21]

Year Overall Median Less than 9th grade High school drop-out High school graduate Some college Associates degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree or more Master's degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
1991$40,873$17,414$23,096$37,520$46,296$52,289$64,150$68,845$72,669$102,667$92,614
1993$40,324$17,450$22,523$35,979$44,153$49,622$64,537$70,349$75,645$109,900$93,712
1995$42,235$18,031$21,933$37,609$44,537$50,485$63,357$69,584$77,865$98,302$95,899
1997$43,648$17,762$22,688$38,607$45,734$51,726$67,487$72,338$77,850$105,409$99,699
1999$46,236$19,008$23,977$39,322$48,588$54,282$70,925$76,958$82,097$110,383$107,217
2001$45,300$18,830$24,162$37,468$47,605$53,166$69,796$75,116$81,993$103,918$96,442
2003$45,016$18,787$22,718$36,835$45,854$51,970$68,728$73,446$78,541$100,000$96,830
Average$43,376$18,183$23,013$37,620$46,109$51,934$66,997$72,376$78,094$104,368$94,487

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2003[20]

Age of householder

Household income in the United States varies substantially with the age of the person who heads the household. Overall the median household income increased with the age of householder until retirement age when household income started to decline.[22] The highest median household income was found among households headed by working baby-boomers.[22] Households headed by persons between the ages of 45 and 54 had a median household income of $61,111 and a mean household income of $77,634. The median income per member of household for this particular group was $27,924. The highest median income per member of household was among those between the ages of 54 and 64 with $30,544. The group with the second highest median household income, were households headed by persons between the ages 35 and 44 with a median income of $56,785, followed by those in the age group between 55 and 64 with $50,400. Not surprisingly the lowest income group was mainly comprised of those households headed by individuals younger than 24, followed by those headed by persons over the age of 75. Overall households headed by persons above the age of seventy-five had a median household income of $20,467 with the median household income per member of household being $18,645. These figures support the general assumption that median household income as well as the median income per member of household peaked among those households headed by middle aged persons, increasing with the age of the householder and the size of the household until the householder reaches the age of 64. With retirement income replacing salaries and the size of the household declining, the median household income decreases as well.[22]

Household income over time

Please note that all figures are presented in 2003 dollars.

Since 1967, the median household income in the United States has risen modestly, fluctuating several times. Even though personal income has risen substantially and 42% of all household now have two income earners, the median household income has increased only slightly. According to the US Census Bureau, this paradoxial set of trends is due to the changing structure of American households. For example, while the proportion of wives working year-round in married couple households with children has increased from 17% in 1967 to 39% in 1996, the proportion of such households among the general population has decreased. Thus, while married couple households with children are the most economically prosperous type of household in the United States, their share of the population has been dwindeling in the United States. In 1969, more than 40% of all households consisted of a married couple with children. By 1996 only a rough quarter of US households consisted of married couples with children. As a result of these changing household demographics, median household income rose only slighly despite an ever increasing female labor force and a considerable increase in the percentage of college graduates.[23]

"From 1969 to 1996, median household income rose a very modest 6.3 percent in constant dollars... The 1969 to 1996 stagnation in median household income may, in fact, be largely a reflection of changes in the size and composition of households rather than a reflection of a stagnating economy."- John McNeil, US Census Bureau

Overall, the median household income rose from $33,338 in 1967 to an all-time high of $44,922 in 1999, and has since decreased slightly to $43,318. Decreases in household income are visible during each recession, while increases are visible during economic upturns. These fluctuations were felt across the income strata as the incomes of both, the 95th and 20th percentile were affected by flactuations in the economy. Yet, it is important to note that income in the period between 1967 and 1999 grew faster among wealthier households than it did among poorer households. For example the household income for the 80th precentile, the lower threshold for the top quintile, rose from $55,265 in 1967 to $86,867 in 2003, a 57.2% increase. The median household income rose by 30% while the income for the 20th percentile (the lower threshold for the second lowest quitile) rose by only 28% from $14,002 to $17,984. One should note that ht majority of households in the top quintile had two income earners, versus zero for the lowest quintile and that the widening gap between the top and lowest quintile may largely be the reflection of changing household demographics including the addition of women to the workforce.[23][24]

While per-capita, disposable income has increased 469% since 1972 it has only increased moderately when considering inflation. In 1972, disposable personal income was determined to be $4,129; $19,385 in 2005 dollars. In 2005, disposable personal income was, however, $27,640, showing a moderate 43% increase.[25][26] Since 1990, household income has fallen slightly, but this does not take into account the decrease in average household size. [27]

Data 2003 2000 1997 1994 1991 1988 1985 1982 1979 1976 1973 1970 1967
20th percentile  $17,984  $19,142  $17,601  $16,484  $16,580  $17,006  $16,306  $15,548  $16,457  $15,615  $15,844 $15,126 $14,002
Median (50th)  $43,318  $44,853  $42,294  $39,613  $39,679  $40,678  $38,510  $36,811  $38,649  $36,155  $37,700 $35,832 $33,338
80th percentile  $86,867  $87,341  $81,719  $77,154  $74,759  $75,593  $71,433  $66,920  $68,318  $63,247  $64,500 $60,148 $55,265
95th percentile $154,120  $155,121  $144,636  $134,835  $126,969  $127,958  $119,459  $111,516  $111,445  $100,839  $102,243  $95,090  $88,678 

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004[24] (Page 44/45)

Income by state

The median household income by state ranged from $32,589 or 26.7% below national median, in West Virginia to $57,352 or 29% above national median, in New Hampshire. Connecticut, which is often referred to as the nation's wealthiest state,[28] came in at number four with a median household income of $55,970. California which had the highest median home price in the nation.[29] where home prices have far outpaced incomes[30] only ranked number thirteen with a median household income of $49,894.[31] While California's median income was not near enough to afford the average California home or even a starter home, West Virginia, which had the nation's lowest median household income also had the nation's lowest median home price.[29][31] The northeastern states, more specifically those located in New England, as well as the western states had the highest median household income. Of the top fifteen states, all were located in the Northeast and West, with the sole exception of Minnesota which ranked fifth. The southern states had the by far lowest median household income with nine out of the country's fifteen poorest states being located in the South. It should be noted, however, that New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also fell below the national median. Overall, median household income tended to be the highest in nation's most urbanized northeastern, north mid-western and western States, while rural and mostly southern states had the lowest median household income.[31]

State Rank Median household income +/- national average Change 1999-2005 (inflation adjusted)
New Hampshire157,352+12,879-2%
New Jersey256,772+12,299-4.5%
Maryland356,763+12,290-0.5%
Connecticut455,970+11,497-3.5%
Minnesota555,914+11,441-5.7%
Alaska654,627+10,154-6.9%
Virginia753,275+8,802-0.8%
Hawaii853,123+8,650-0.4%
Massachusetts952,354+7,881-3.3%
Colorado1051,022+6,549-8.4%
Utah1150,614+5,691-10.5%
Delaware1250,152+5,679-5.4%
California1349,894+5,421-3.6%
Washington1448,688+4,215-8.1%
Wisconsin1547,220+2,747-8.2%
Nevada1646,984+2,511-5.8%
Rhode Island1746,199+1,726+4.4%
Illinois1845,787+1,314-7.9%
Vermont1945,692+1,219-4.5%
Nebraska2044,623+150-4.6%
Michigan2144,476+3-12%
United States national average ($44,473) -6%
Pennsylvania2244,286-187-5.2%
New York2344,228-245-2.7%
Ohio2444,160-313-9.3%
Missouri2543,988-485-5.5%
Kansas2643,725-748-9.8%
Wyoming2743,641-832+4.1%
Georgia2843,217-1,256-8.3%
Iowa2943,042-1,431-5.7%
District of Columbia3043,003-1,470+0.5%
Indiana3043,003-1,470-9.7%
Oregon3142,617-1,856-10.4%
Arizona3242,590-1,883-6.8%
Idaho3342,519-1,954-5.8%
Texas3441,275-3,198-9.9%
South Dakota3540,518-3,955-2.5%
Florida3640,171-4,302-6.7%
North Dakota3739,594-4,879+1.2%
Maine3839,395-5,078-1.9%
South Carolina3939,326-5,147-9.5%
North Carolina4039,000-5,473-11.3%
Tennessee4138,550-5,923-8.7%
Oklahoma4238,281-6,192-5.3%
Alabama4338,111-6,362-7.8%
New Mexico4437,587-6,886-6.2%
Kentucky4537,396-7,077-5.3%
Louisiana4635,523-8,950-3.7%
Montana4735,201-9,272+1.6%
Arkansas4833,948-10,525-7.2%
Mississippi4933,659-10,814-10.3%
West Virginia5032,589-11,884-3.8%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004/05[31]

Median income

The median income divides households in the US evenly in the middle with half of all household earning more than the median income and half of all households earning less than the median household income. In 2004 the median household income in the United States was $43,389.[19] According to the US Census Bureau, the median is "considerably lower than the average, and provides a more accurate representation."[32] Considering other racial and geographical inequities in regards to household income, it should come as no surprise that the median household income varies with race, size of household and geography. The state with the highest median household income in the United States was New Hampshire with $57,352, followed by New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut, making the Northeastern United States the wealthiest area by income in the entire country.[33] In terms of region the median household income was as follows: "Northeast ($47,994), West ($47,680) and South ($40,773)." Median household income in the Mid-West declined by 2.8% to $44,657.[34] The exception was the Midwest, where income declined 2.8 percent, to $44,657. While median household income has tendency to increase up to four persons per household, it declines thereon after. This indicated that while four person households have larger incomes than those with one, two or three members, household with seem to earn progressively less as their size increases beyond four persons. According to the US Census Bureau 2004 Community Survey, two-person households had a median income of $39,755, with $48,957 for three-person households, $54,338 for four-person households, $50,905 for five-person households, $45,435 for six-person households, with seven-or-more-person households having the second lowest median income of only $42,471.[35]. In terms of race, Asian-Americans households had the highest median household income of $57,518, European-American households ranked second with $48,977, Hispanic or Latino households ranked third with $34,241. African American or Black households had the lowest median household income of all races with $30,134.[34]

Mean income

Another common measurement of personal income is the mean household income. Unlike the median household income which divides all households in two halves, the mean income is the average income earned by American households. In the case of mean income, the income of all households is divided by the number of all households.[36] The mean income is usually more affected by the relatively unequal distribution of income which tilts towards the top.[32] As a result the mean tends to be higher as the median income with the top earning households boosting it. Overall the mean household income in the United States according to the US Census Bureau 2004 Economic Survey was $60,528, or $17,210 (39.73%) higher than the median household income.[37]

"Median income is the amount which divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount. Mean income (average) is the amount obtained by dividing the total aggregate income of a group by the number of units in that group. The means and medians for households and families are based on all households and families. Means and medians for people are based on people 15 years old and over with income."[36]
-US Census Bureau, Frequently Asked Question, published by First Gov.

The mean household income for households headed by persons identifying as White alone was $65,317, $40,685 for those headed by persons identifying as African American or Black, $45,871 for those headed by persons identifying as Hispanic or Latino, and $76,747 for those households headed by persons identifying as Asian alone. Approximately one third, or 36.5%, of all households earned more than the mean income, while 63.5% earned less than the mean.[37]

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