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Monday, December 05, 2005

Median households

Posted by: Hammer / 3:20 PM

Here's Krugman on GDP v. actual families:

It should have been a good year for American families: the economy grew 4.2 percent, its best performance since 1999. Yet most families actually lost economic ground. Real median household income - the income of households in the middle of the income distribution, adjusted for inflation - fell for the fifth year in a row. And one key source of economic insecurity got worse, as the number of Americans without health insurance continued to rise.

I'm a Krugman fan, but that strikes me as implausible. Is it really true that median income has fallen 5 years in a row?

Know what? I'm sure it is true. I'm sure median household income has fallen, though remained essentially flat, for the last 5 years. What I don't believe is that people re-elected the bonehead responsible for diverting our national wealth toward those whose pockets are already full to bursting.


Seemed implausible to me, too, so I checked the Census Bureau numbers myself. It seems "fell" is here used in the sense of "didn't go up." Here's one quotation: "2004 marked the second consecutive year in which real median household income showed no change."

I didn't find precise numbers, but from the graph on page 3 of this document, it looks like pre-Bush 2000 was flat or slightly down, 2001 and 2002 were down, and then 2003 and 2004 were flat (i.e., at the 2002 level).

That graph has the data points at mid-year, so the 2001 drop may not belong entirely to Dubya.

By Blogger Joseph, at 10:12 AM  

I think it is fair to say that there was no significant change, but to be precise median income fell from 44,482 in 2003 to 44,389 in 2004. Granted that's only .2% and I doubt that those numbers are significant to five digits (unless the Census Bureau compiles income figures to the dollar which I guess they could.) In any case there are no doubt right wingers out there who would love to jump on Krugman and say he was not entirely accurate but in this case they would be wrong.

By Blogger Jambo, at 1:22 PM  

It's a true statement that is slightly misleading. The impression from the piece is that real income is down. That's factually correct, but it's more accurate to say that real income has been flat.

By Blogger Hammer, at 1:51 PM  

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