NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Encouraging News In Latest Income Figures

October 1, 1999

Last year, median income for American households reached an all- time high, according to a Census Bureau report issued yesterday. That pushed the official poverty level down to its lowest point since 1979.

  • Median household income rose by 3.5 percent in 1998 adjusted for inflation -- to a record $38,885.
  • The proportion of Americans living under the poverty line dropped to 12.7 percent, representing 34.5 million people, from 13.3 percent in 1997.
  • Virtually every type of household -- those headed by couples, single mothers, old, young, immigrants, city dwellers and suburbanites -- experienced big gains.
  • Every region of the country saw significant increases in income.

Poverty in the South -- long considered the nation's economic backwater -- plunged. Surprisingly, that region now has a lower poverty rate than the West.

Yet, wages barely budged over the past decade. The pretax median income in 1998 was just $1,001 higher than it was in 1989. That translates into an average annual raise of 0.3 percent, adjusted for inflation -- or $111.22 a year.

Last year's poverty rate was still 1.6 percentage points higher than in 1973.

Source: Jacob M. Schlesinger, Tristan Mabry and Sarah Lueck, "Charting the Pain Behind the Gain," Wall Street Journal, October 1, 1999.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues