Census: Real Household Income Peaked in 20th Century

Terry Jeffrey
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Posted: Sep 17, 2014 12:01 AM
Census: Real Household Income Peaked in 20th Century

So far, if measured by household income, the 21st century has not been a good one for the United States of America.

In its annual report on "Income and Poverty in the United States," released on Tuesday, the Census Bureau described real median household income as stagnating for two years after declining for two.

"Median household income was $51,939 in 2013, not statistically different in real terms from the 2012 median of $51,759," said the Census Bureau. "This is the second consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive years of annual declines in median household income."

In the longer view, real median household income has declined since it peaked at the end of the last century.

"Median household income was $51,939 in 2013, not statistically different from the 2012 median in real terms, 8.0 percent lower than the 2007 (the year before the most recent recession) median ($56,436), and 8.7 percent lower than the median household income peak ($56,895) that occurred in 1999," said the Census.

The same basic pattern holds for real average (as opposed to median) household income. Real average household income peaked at $77,287 (in constant 2013 dollars) in 2000, the last year of the 20th century. It dropped to $74,569 by 2004, and then climbed back up to $76,912 in 2006. But by 2013, it had dropped to $72,641 -- a real decline of 6.4 percent from the peak of 2000.

American households are poorer now than they were when the 21st century began. Among householders who dropped out of high school as well as those who graduated from college, real median income has declined.

The real median income for households headed by high school dropouts peaked in 2000 at $30,699. In 2013, it was $25,672 -- a drop of 16.4 percent from the 20th-century peak.

The real median income for households headed by high school graduates who did not attend college, peaked in 1999 at $49,802. In 2013, it was $40,701 -- a drop of 18.3 percent from the 20th-century peak.

The real median income of households headed by Americans who have earned at least a bachelor's degree peaked in 1999 at $97,470. In 2013, it was $86,411 -- a drop of 11.3 percent from its 20th-century peak.

The real median income for married couple families peaked in 2007 at $81,552. By 2013, it had dropped to $76,339 -- a decline of 6.4 percent.

In households headed by a male with no spouse present, real median income peaked in 1999 at $52,201. In 2013, it was $44,475 -- a decline of 14.8 percent.

In households headed by a female with no spouse present, real median income in 2000 at $34,786. In 2013, it was $31,408 -- a decline of 9.7 percent.

At the beginning of the 20th century, America was still a pioneering nation. People were responsible for their own and their family's material well-being -- and proud to be so.

There was no Medicaid, no food stamps, no federal housing projects and no school lunch program.

In the 20th century, our government built these things for us, and the pioneering spirit of the nation began to erode.

By the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Census Bureau, 109,631,000 Americans were living in households that received benefits from one or more means-tested federally funded program. That was 35.4 percent of the national population.

That was before Obamacare began full implementation this year, with its expansion of Medicaid and its premium subsidies for people who buy government-mandated government-approved health insurance plans on government-run exchanges.

If the welfare state continues to grow, it is a safe bet that household incomes will continue to shrink.

The question Americans face: Do we want to take care of -- and control -- our own lives, or have government do it for us?