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No Change in Poverty, Income or Earnings Between 2013 and 2014

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 income and poverty report shows no drop in the poverty rate for persons, and no growth in inflation-adjusted household income or earnings for full-time, year-round male or female workers.

 In 2013, the Bureau redesigned its income questions, causing a .3 percentage point increase in the poverty rate (using the old questions, the poverty rate would have been 14.5 percent for 2013 and 2014, compared to the 14.8 percent level under the new questions for both years).  The poverty rate had held steady for the three previous years (2010-12) at about 15 percent, the longest period of poverty at this level since the first half of the 1960s — testifying to the severity of the last recession.  The poverty rate has remained above 14 percent for six consecutive years, exceeding the five-year period at this level in the first half of the 1980s, and such sustained high poverty is also unmatched since the 1960s. 

Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers in 2014 were $50,383 for men and $39,621 for women — neither gender has experienced statistically-significant growth in inflation-adjusted earnings since 2009.  All dollar figures in the report have been converted to 2014 dollars.

One positive indicator was the increase in the proportion of workers who labored full-time, year-round, which rose between 2013 and 2014 for both men (73.0 to 73.9 percent) and women (59.6 to 61.1 percent) — these levels also rose between 2012 and 2013.

Median household income hit its pre-recession peak in 2007 (the recession began in December), and then steadily fell until 2011, where it has remained steady for four years, through 2014.  In 2014, median household income was $53,657, a slight but not statistically significant drop from 2013’s $54,462.  The 2013 question redesign effectively raised the median household income level by nearly $1,700 (it was $52,789 in 2013 using the old questions).

Income inequality had risen since 1999, but the Census Bureau’s analysis of five different measures of inequality showed no significant rise in inequality in the 2012-14 period.

The poverty rate rose for persons with disabilities aged 18-64, from 27.8 to 28.5 percent between 2013 and 2014 (the second year of rising poverty rates for this group), while remaining roughly stable for those without disabilities over 2012-14.   However, the survey margin of error is sufficiently high that the rise in poverty for persons with disabilities was not statistically significant.

See Income and Poverty in the United States.