U.S. household income grows for third straight year

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Americans are earning slightly more money toward their household incomes.

The median U.S. household income increased in 2017 to $61,372 — a third straight year of growth — while the poverty rate dipped to 12.3 percent, relatively unchanged from 2016, according to Census Bureau data released Wednesday.

Despite the 1.8 percent rise in the median household income last year from 2016, when Americans earned $60,309, it was not as impressive as the growth in the previous two years. The median income, adjusted for inflation, is the point at which half of the households surveyed have income below that number and half above it.

The new data also shows the rate of Americans with health insurance — and more people are covered, the Census Bureau found.

Nearly a million more people have some type of health insurance, mostly because of provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

About 9.1 percent of the population went without health insurance in 2015, and that number fell to 8.8 percent in 2016 and remained relatively unchanged in 2017, when about 28.5 million people didn’t have coverage.

In 2010, before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, 16.3 percent of the population went without health insurance. The majority of those insured had private coverage last year as opposed to one provided by the government.

Census-compiled income, poverty and health insurance rates are used to gauge the economic well-being of the nation and remain tools for lawmakers in deciding policy.

The median household income in 2017 crossed the $61,000 mark for the first time, but because the Census Bureau redesigned its methodology in 2013, officials said last year’s apparent record high figure is not statistically different from 1999 or 2007.

The overall economy has also strengthened in the decade since the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and saw the shedding of millions of full-time jobs and stagnation of American workers’ wages.

This year, the national unemployment rate has hovered around an 18-year low, and was at 3.9 percent in August.

H. Luke Shaefer, the director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, said the Obama administration helped to put in place policies that cushioned the blow of the financial markets’ collapse, including a stimulus package and the extension of unemployment insurance. The economy has improved steadily since 2014, when the median household income was $54,398, according to the census.

The effects of the Trump administration’s sweeping tax bill in late 2017 was lauded by Republicans as a way to boost business and help wages go up. House Speak Paul Ryan, R- Wis., said a typical family would see a $2,059 tax cut this year.

But Shaefer said it’s still too early to tell what kind of effect tax cuts will have on workers’ wages.

“We had a really bad recession and now we’re having a really long recovery,” he added. “We reached down to the bottom, and now we’re finally seeing a turn around.”

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