U.S. household incomes rose for the third straight year in 2017, according to census figures released Wednesday that suggest more Americans are benefiting from the strong economy.
Median household income increased to $ 61,372 last year, up 1.8% when adjusted for inflation. There were 39.7 million people in poverty last year, and that rate inched down 0.4 percentage point. The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2017 calendar year was 8.8%, or 28.5 million, not statistically different from 2016.
The household income level is the highest on record, but because of a change in the way the figures are calculated over time, census officials said the figure is essentially the same as previous income peaks in 1999 and 2007. The 2017 growth rate also lagged behind the previous two years, when median household income rose 3.2% in 2016 and 5.2% in 2015.
Men saw a 3% increase in median earnings, while women’s essentially remained flat. The number of people working full time increased by 2.4 million in 2017.
“We’re continuing to see that shift from part-time, part-year work to year-round, full-time work,” said Trudi Renwick, an economist at the Census Bureau.
Republicans hope that recent signs of wage growth will convince voters to cast their ballots for GOP candidates in November’s elections. This week the White House said President Trump deserves credit for creating millions of jobs, spurring business investment and bringing more workers into the labor force.
Democrats say Mr. Trump is wrong to take responsibility for the gains since meaningful increases in household income started in 2015. In a speech at the University of Illinois last week, former President Obama said, “When you hear how great the economy’s doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started.”
In midterm campaigns, Democrats are emphasizing that these gains haven’t been spread broadly enough.
Marian Meszaros, a 62-year-old who works at a grocery store deli in Franklin Square, N.Y., says she got a 93-cent raise last year that lifted her pay to $15 an hour. But because her cost of living is also rising, and she’s helping support her mother, she feels like she keeps falling further behind.
“I made more money 20 years ago than I am now,” said Ms. Meszaros, who previously worked as a hairdresser. “I would just like to be middle class again.”