US Median Household Income Sees First Rise in Almost A Decade

September 19, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

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

censusbureau-median-household-income-trends-1975-2015-sept2016The real median household income in the US was $56,516 last year, a 5.2% year-over-year climb that represents the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, according to a new study [pdf] released by the US Census Bureau based on official national findings from the Current Population Survey. Real median household income (in 2015 dollars) has grown by about 14% over the past 30 years (from $49,631 in 1985), though it is yet to recover to its peak of $57,909 in 1999.

The largest share (16.7%) of US households continues to be in the $50-75k income range, though the percentage of households in this range has trended down over the past 50-odd years, from a high of 24.5% in 1969. In its place is a growing share of households in the $100k+ bracket, with more than one-quarter (26.4%) of households last year having income exceeding that threshold.

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

According to the Census Bureau’s breakdown:

  • Asian households (Asian alone) continued to have the highest median HHI, of $77,196, though the 3.8% increase was not considered statistically significant;
  • Non-Hispanic whites were next, at $62,950, a 4.4% increase followed by;
  • Hispanics (any race), at $45,148, a 6.1% climb; and
  • Non-Hispanic Black households, at $36,898, a 4.1% increase.


According to the Census Bureau’s age breakdown, real median household income (HHI) was:

  • Highest among 45-54-year-old householders ($73,857 last year, up by 4.2%); followed by
  • 35-44-year-old householders ($71,417, up by 7%);
  • 55-64-year-old householders ($62,802, up by 3.5%);
  • 25-34-year-old householders ($57,366, up by 5.6%);
  • Householders aged 65 and up ($38,515, up by 4.3%); and
  • 15-24-year-old householders ($36,108, up by 4.2%).

(Householders refers to those who maintain the household.)

While median household income grew by about 14% in the 30-year period between 1985 and 2015, the top percentiles have experienced far more rapid growth:

  • Real HHI for the households in the 95th percentile has increased by 42%, to $214,462 last year; and
  • HHI for households in the 90th percentile has grown by 35% to to $162,180 last year, but;
  • HHI for households in the 10th percentile has increased by 7% over that time span, to $13,259.

What that effectively means is that while those in the 95th percentile enjoyed a HHI 12.2 times greater than those in the 10th percentile back in 1985, that gap has now reached a multiple of about 16.

Other Findings:

  • Between 1999 (when household income peaked) and 2015, incomes at the 50th and 10th percentiles of household income decreased by 2.4% and 7.9%, respectively, while incomes at the 90th percentile grew by 5.7%.
  • The top 5% of households took home 22.1% of aggregate income last year;
  • Among full-time year-round workers, women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio stood at 80% last year ($40,742 compared to $51,212). Though it’s still far from parity, the ratio has steadily grown from 61% in 1960, and is up from 77% in 2012.
  • 43. million Americans lived in poverty last year, or 13.5% of the population, down from 14.8% in 2014. That rate is also down from 22.4% in 1959, but up from 11.3% in 2000.
  • The poverty rate was highest among Black Americans (24.1%) and Hispanics (21.4%), and was considerably lower among Asians (11.4%) and non-Hispanic whites (9.1%).

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