US Median Household Income Falls for the First Time in Almost A Decade

October 15, 2021

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Asian-American | Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Featured | Hispanic | Household Income | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

CensusBureau Median Household Income in 2020 Oct2021The real median household income in the US in 2020 was $67,521, representing a (statistically significant) decline of 2.9% year-over-year from 2019. This figure comes from a report released by the US Census Bureau based on official findings from the 2021 Current Population Survey. The report notes that this is the first time since 2011 that median household income has experienced a statistically significant decline.

As in years past, the largest share (16.5%) of US households continue to be in the $50-75K income range, on par with the share seen in 2019. Although this income bracket has represented the largest share of households since 1967, its share has been dwindling. In its place is a growing share of households in the $100K+ range, with about one-third (33.6%) of households last year having income exceeding that threshold (15.3% at $100-150K; 8% at $150-200K; and 10.3% at $200K and up).

The Census Bureau data provides some interesting breakouts based on race and ethnicity.

According to the breakdown:

  • Asian Americans (Asian-alone) continued to have the highest median household income (HHI) in 2020, at $94,903. These households also experienced the largest decline — of 4.5% — over 2019;
  • Non-Hispanic Whites were next, at $74,912, a year-over-year decrease of 2.7%, followed by;
  • Hispanics (any race) at $55,321, a 2.6% decrease; and
  • Non-Hispanic Black households, $45,870. This is the only race or ethnicity to not experience a statistically significant decrease (0.3%) over 2019.

Per the Census Bureau’s age breakdown, the real median HHI was:

  • Highest among 45-54-year-old householders ($90,359 last year, down by 3.2%); followed by
  • 35-44-year-old householders ($85,694, down by 4.8%);
  • 55-64-year-old householders ($74,270, down by 3.1%);
  • 25-34-year-old householders ($71,566, no statistically significant change from 2019);
  • 15-24-year-old householders ($46,886, down by 3.4%); and
  • Householders ages 65 and older ($46,360, down by 3.3%).

Note: Householders refers to those who maintain the household.

Median household income (in 2020 dollars) grew by about 17% in the 30-year period between 1990 ($57,677) and 2020. However, the top percentiles have experienced far more rapid growth in that time:

  • Real HHI for the households in the 95th percentile has increased by 50%, to $273,739 last year; and
  • HHI for households in the 90th percentile has grown by 41% to $201,126, while;
  • HHI for households in the 10th percentile has increased by only 12% over that time span, to $15,600.

Other Findings:

  • The top 5% of households took home 19.5% of aggregate income in 2020;
  • Among full-time year-round workers, women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio stood at 83% last year ($50,982 compared to $61,417). Although this is still far from parity, the ratio has steadily grown from 60% in 1980, and is up from 77% in 2010.
  • 37.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year, or 11.4% of the population, an increase of 1% over 2019.
  • The poverty rate remains the highest among Black Americans (19.5%) and Hispanics (17%) and was noticeably lower among Asians (8.1%) and non-Hispanic Whites (8.2%).

The full report can be accessed online here.

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