NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Census Reveals Economic Progress, Changes in the '90s

June 5, 2002

New Census data reveal Americans made economic progress in the 1990s in an increasingly diverse society. The proportion of U.S. homes where English is the predominant spoken language dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 82 percent in 2000 -- while Spanish-speaking homes increased from 8 to 11 percent.

  • Meanwhile, women's incomes rose an average of 7 percent nationwide and in every state but Alaska.
  • Male median incomes in 26 states fell 2.3 percent; the overall proportion of men who work fell while the proportion of women working rose.
  • The proportion of workers employed in private industry edged up from 77 percent to 78 percent -- while the proportion of workers employed by various levels of government stayed at 15 percent.
  • And the proportion of Americans living in poverty dropped over the decade from 13 percent to 12 percent.

Americans are devoting a larger share of income to keeping a roof over their heads.

An estimated 19 million American households are spending 35 percent or more of their monthly income on house payments or rent -- versus 16 million in 1990. However, the proportion of homeowners soared 18 percent during the 1900s, and the median value of American homes jumped about 20 pecent, from $100,000 to $119,600.

Sources: Sam Ward and Dave Merrill, "Decade of Change for USA," and Thomas A. Fogarty, "Census: Housing Takes More Money," both in USA Today; also Peter T. Kilborn and Lynette Clemetson, "Gains of '90s Did Not Lift All, Census Shows," New York Times; all appeared June 5, 2002.

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