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Lessons From Income Data: Study, Work, Family, Persistence

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases new data on income trends in the American population that reinforce certain traditional lessons about life -- which may be why liberals do not talk about this data much.


Are there any patterns in the lives of those who do -- and do not -- succeed financially in the United States? Yes.

For example, people who stay in school longer and graduate tend to earn more money than people who do not.

Table PINC-03, which the Census Bureau released last week, categorizes Americans 25 and older by their "educational attainment" and their "total money earnings" in 2017.

Those with a "less than 9th grade" education made the least. They had median earnings of $23,849.

Those who went to high school but did not graduate had median earnings of $25,237. Those who graduated from high school but did not attend college had median earnings of $32,320. Those who attended some college but did not earn a degree had median earnings of $36,633. Those who earned an associate degree had median earnings of $40,322.

Those who earned a bachelor's degree had median earnings of $53,882; a master's, $70,358; a doctorate, $94,854; and a professional degree, $100,276.

The pattern is obvious: A higher degree tends to pave the way to a higher income.

In Table HINC-01, the Census Bureau presents household income categorized by "selected characteristics" of the household. One of these is whether -- and how much -- the householder works.

In households where the householder did not work at all in 2017, the median income was $32,178. In households where the householder worked 50 weeks or more at a part-time job, the median income was $56,510. But in households where the householder worked a full-time job for 50 weeks or more, the median income was $86,590.


The obvious pattern: The more you work, the more you earn.

The Census Bureau also looks at household income by family structure.

Nonfamily households had a median income of $36,650 in 2017. Women householders with no spouse present had a median income of $41,703. Male householders with no spouse present had a median income of $60,843. But traditional married-couple families had a median income of $90,386.

The obvious pattern: Married Americans tend to earn more than unmarried Americans.

Table HINC-04 in the Census Bureau data indicates that family income also varies depending on the presence of children in the home.

Married couple families with no children under 18 had a median income of $84,944, while married couple families with children under 18 had a median income of $97,964.

When work, marriage and children are combined, according to the Census Bureau Table FINC-04, median income goes even higher. In married couple families where both the husband and wife work full-time year-round, the median income was $127,718 in 2017.

If the married couple working full-time year-round had one child between 6 and 17 years old, their median income was $131,271. If they had two or more children in that age bracket, their median income was $133,921.

The lesson: Raising children may cost money, but it inspires traditional married couples to make money.

The Census Bureau also reports that younger people generally do not make as much money as middle-aged people. They must persist and work for a while before they hit their earning peak.


Married-couple families in which the householder is 24 to 34 have a median income of $80,381, according to Table FINC-02. That rose to $101,682 when the householder was 35 to 44 and peaked at $112,407 when the householder was 45 to 54.

In the current American population, those who finished school, worked, married, had children and persisted in work, marriage and child rearing are likely to be independent and self-sufficient.

Liberal American politicians often argue that the best way to help those with lower incomes is to use the power of government to redistribute wealth from those with higher incomes.

A more effective strategy would be to restore throughout this country the values that history -- and Census Bureau data -- demonstrates motivate a free and independent people.

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