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On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its annual report on income and poverty in the United States, based on the Current Population Survey. The report found that median household income increased by an inflation-adjusted 5.2% in 2015. President Obama and Hillary Clinton hailed this finding as a vindication of eight years of stagnation, and newspapers played up the 5.2% increase as the best economic news in a long time.


Of course, the Bureau’s own press release noted that “this is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007….” So it’s about time. Hillary Clinton probably won’t be heard to say, “Vote Democrat, and once in a decade your income won’t go down!”


Many observers wondered how we could have 5% income growth at the same time we were experiencing 2% GDP growth, and even the most cursory review of the report’s Table 1, which contains summary data, reveals that the supposed 5.2% increase in household income has been badly overhyped.


From newspaper headlines, one would assume that if you are a regular person with a full-time job, your income likely went up 5% last year. Wrong. The figures for earnings of full-time workers are much lower. Men who worked full-time in 2015 saw a median increase in earnings of only 1.5%, and women a slightly larger median increase of 2.7%.


Also, the income gains were not uniformly distributed. The smallest gains went to native-born Americans. Whose incomes increased the most? Donald Trump might want to take note of this one: foreign-born non-citizens, up by 10.5%.Scissors-32x32.png

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