A Healthy Economy? Look Closer.

Neil Irwin shows how the recent Census data is an “important corrective” of the true health of the economy.

“The median American household in 2014 had a lower income, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it did in 2013. The $53,657 the household in the middle of the income distribution earned last year was down 1.5 percent from the year before, though the census said that shift was not statistically significant.”

“But even if that drop is a statistical blip and you assume that middle-class incomes were really flat, flat isn’t anything to celebrate in the current environment. The 2014 real median income number is 6.5 percent below its 2007, pre-crisis level. It is 7.2 percent below the number in 1999.”

“A middle-income American family, in other words, makes substantially less money in inflation-adjusted terms than it did 15 years ago. And there is no evidence that is reversing … If you were to sum up the latest census numbers on incomes in the United States in 2014, it would be with these three words: ‘not statistically different.’ The announcement includes the phrase six times in its discussion of incomes, and that fact sums up a lot.”

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