The Quiet Good News: US Economy Is Doing Really Well

Middle-class incomes are setting new highs, poverty is down, yet no one’s talking about it

Wall Street, New York City. Photo via Wikipedia.

The median household income of Americans grew to an all-time high of $59,039 in 2016 according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Sept. 12. That’s a 3.2 percent increase from the 2015 median of $57,230.

The nation’s poverty rate, meanwhile, is down, falling to 12.7 percent in 2016. This is very close to the 12.5 percent rate that prevailed in 2007, before the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the slow-growth recovery that followed. In 2010 the national poverty rate was 15.1 percent.

While 40.6 million Americans still lived in poverty in 2016, that was 2.5 million fewer than the previous year, according to the Census Bureau.

“Has anyone noticed how well the economy is doing?” said University of Michigan economist Don Grimes. “Middle-class income at the highest level ever and the poverty rate back to where it was before the recession. Where is the champagne?”

Data on Michigan median household income and poverty rates will be released later this month.

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As part of our efforts on government transparency, we obtained data on the compensation of most public employees in the state. This information has been used to fact check claims about salaries, verify data from other open records requests, and hold government spending accountable.

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