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Census Bureau: Americans' Incomes Have Dropped in 2016

Jeffrey H. Anderson

President Obama got a fair amount of good press a few weeks ago when it was reported that Americans’ incomes had risen. But that was from 2014 to 2015. During 2016, Americans’ incomes have dropped.

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, compiled by Sentier Research, reveal that the typical American household’s real (inflation-adjusted) income has taken a turn for the worse during this election year. In December 2015, the real median household income was $57,701 (in seasonally adjusted, August 2016 dollars). Eight months later, in August 2016 (the most recent tally available), that figure has dropped to $57,380. That’s a decline of $321 across eight months.

Real median household income is also down since January 2000, it’s down since November 2008 (the month Obama was elected), and it’s down since January 2009 (the month he took office). It’s up since June 2009—thelast month of the Bush-Obama recession—but only by $1,191. In other words, across the 7-year “recovery,” typical Americans’ incomes have risen an average of just $3.20 a week.

In 2016, they haven’t risen at all. If they don’t start doing so before Obama leaves office, he’ll fall short even of George W. Bush’s 8-year performance: Under Bush, incomes rose by just $377 across 96 months (from January 2001 to January 2009). Under Obama, incomes have fallen by $102 across 91 months (from January 2009 to August 2016).

An ideal situation for a president who’d like to post strong tallies in this vein would be to inherit a recession—but to have most of that recession already have passed by the time he takes office—and then have the remainder of his presidency to build upon that low starting point. Obama inherited such ideal circumstances, yet Americans’ incomes have actually declined on his watch.

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