The Census Bureau released its annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage: 2010 (full PDF)  this morning.  Barry has posted the slide presentation that staff went through during the conference call over in the Think Tank (please have a look).  The (very ugly) bullet points from the release can be found here, and the centerpiece graph is below.

As time allows, I intend to do some work on the numbers in the updated report, but here are a few things that jumped out at me (straight from the summary):

  1. Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
  2. Since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent and is 7.1 percent below the median household income peak that occurred prior to the 2001 recession in 1999.
  3. In spring 2011, 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 (14.2 percent) resided in their parents’ household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 percent) before the recession, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.
  4. It is difficult to precisely assess the impact of doubling up on overall poverty rates. Young adults age 25-34, living with their parents, had an official poverty rate of 8.4 percent, but if their poverty status were determined using their own income, 45.3 percent had an income below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65.
  5. Based on the Gini Index, the change in income inequality between 2009 and 2010 was not statistically significant, while the changes in shares of aggregate household income by quintiles showed a slight shift to more inequality. The Gini index was 0.469 in 2010. (The Gini index is a measure of household income inequality; zero represents perfect income equality and 1 perfect inequality.)

More to come.

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Research, Wages & Income

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

33 Responses to “First Look: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010”

  1. machinehead says:

    Reading off the chart (the ‘all races’ line), real median household income looks to be almost back to where it was in 1989, just before the 1990-91 recession hit.

    Never mind the ‘lost decade’ chatter; we’re talkin’ about a ‘lost generation’ here.

    And it’s not just an artifact of ‘bad things happening to good people.’ The delusional dream of a global Pax Americana enforced by a worldwide US military empire has been sucking the lifeblood out of the US economy … and the price has been paid in flat-to-falling living standards. And it will KEEP ON being paid, until we stop banging our heads against that brick wall and bring the troops home: ALL OF THEM.

    But you’ll listen in vain for any presidential candidate other than Ron Paul to even acknowledge this point. The preening egomaniacs of the Depublicrat Party still subscribe to Kissinger’s dictum that ‘power is the ultimate aphrodisiac’ — until you go broke, that is.

  2. cthwaites says:

    46m in poverty and real median income stopped growing 15 years ago. Proud of that are we? Real HHI up 0.4% in 43 years…down 8% from its peak. Say what you like about Mugabe, at least he told everyone he was confiscating their wealth. The US has done it on the quiet.

  3. Liminal Hack says:

    The only possible way of addressing these issues is a long spell of increasing returns to labour and decreasing returns to capital, like during the period of “financial repression”, 1939 to 1965.

    Some (many) people seem to be possessed of the deeply misguided impression that one can have increasing returns to labour at the same time as positive returns to capital if only the right choices are made.

    Well, you can’t.

    Now, which of the two is St Paul likely to choose?

  4. ashpelham2 says:

    Here’s the problem with ever “rolling back” the way of doing business to a way from by-gone years: the world has changed. We can’t go back to the simpler times of 1939-1965 (if you can call a growing empire of hostility in Germany and Japan “simpler times”). Its never gonna be the way it once was.

    It’s going to take an enlightenment by America’s leaders, who hold and control wealth, to return that back to workers of value. It’s going to take a return to altruism instead of return-chasing. I don’t see any of that happening. We are destined to ride this same path until either the fabric of America as we know it and envisioned it is torn, or change is FORCED upon us. Probably by civil war, or foreign takeover.

  5. Unmitigated Audacity says:


    St Paul chose sides a long time ago. He wouldn’t be the figurehead of the monetarist empire otherwise.

    I agree with your observations.

  6. Liminal Hack says:

    The delicious irony is that were the teabaggers to gain control of the whitehouse and monetary policy the likely immediate result would be t-bill rates in the minus 3% region or thereabouts. If they didn’t square that circle by following up with a tax on excess reserves they’d bust all the banks and then be forced to print up a sum of dollars equivalent to a good portion of the broad money supply to meet their FDIC obligations.

  7. Orange14 says:

    I’m still amazed that there isn’t blood on the streets. But hey, maybe everyone is too busy playing computer games to realize how bad things really are. At least my kids have health insurance!

  8. Lyle says:

    Let me pose a question on the median income front. What is the net capital deployed per worker today relative to earlier times? For office workers I suspect the total is up with all the automation and replacement of secretaries with machines. (Including those living in the server rooms and the wiring to connect it up). Its also true in ag and manufacturing, (except in housing and to a big extent in medical care) where old practices prove resistant to change. Consider that the investment in tools requires an ROI to be made, and then ask, given a persons value add, what percentage is tied to the tools provided?

  9. Liminal Hack says:

    Compare the investment in the tools themselves to the investment in the human capital required to use them effectively. A capital distinction between the physical and human here is unwarranted I think.

  10. sooperedd says:

    While the current figures are dismal at best, what they portend are a bleaker future.

  11. this, by the Author’s own admission, isn’t fully-fledged, though, given the Topic, of the Post, ’tis worthwhile..

    and, really, if you *think that his words are ‘overwrought’, you may want to, as Jobs, once told us, “think different”..

    or, maybe, “for a Change”, do some of your own Homework/Research..

  12. scottinnj says:

    Obviously, this is all because the tax rate on carried interest for hedge fund managers is too high. Oh, and that we haven’t passed the free trade agreement with Panama. And it wouldn’t be this bad if Al Gore wasn’t fat.

  13. FNG says:

    Hey Buctis,

    Reviewing the lack of a future. I sent my kid overseas for a gap year to become fluent in Spanish. America sucks the shizzle…bizzle. And I’m a US Marine.

  14. philipat says:

    Until the US starts to address these issues as secular not cyclical issues it can only get worse as the debt mounts whilst not addressing the real issue, which is Globalisation.

    Globalisation has been great for Corporations who shift US jobs to the cheapest location and pay no US taxes as a result of transfer pricing most profits through tax shelter countries and/or increasingly re-locate to low tax locations. Hong Kong, for instance, has a top rate of tax of 16% which does not apply to profits earned outside Hong Kong or, for individuals, pro rata only for nights actually spent in Hong Kong.

    The inevitable end-point of this is that:

    1. Incomes in developing countires will rise, offset by commensurately lower incomes in the developed world.
    2 Corporations will move to wherever they can produce the best results for their shareholders.

    Solutions? Protectionism or a radical overhaul of Government and Tax codes. IMHO.

  15. hammerandtong2001 says:

    “It is difficult to precisely assess the impact of doubling up on overall poverty rates.”


    The American Dream…pfftttt.

    As a middle-schoolers in 1968, we saw the the future. But first we had to walk on the moon, and another 20,000 US military had to die in Vietnam, wild riots in the streets of the US had to be endured, Nixon had to be impeached, Woodstock had to happen.

    If Jamie Dimon can be accurately cast as the equivalent of a tobacco CEO circa 1997, we’ll be on our way. Until then, cat food.


  16. H. Rider Haggard says:

    “In spring 2011, 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 (14.2 percent) resided in their parents’ household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 percent) before the recession, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.”

    I’d call that an increase of (5.9-4.7)/4.7=25.5%. Or and increase of (14.2-11.8)/11.8 = 20.3%. These are big, serious numbers, not a small shift of 2.4%.

  17. Christopher says:

    Same old story….

    Some folks are faucets….some are drains. The difference is now we have a Government that apparently thinks it is good to be a drain.

    The only other reasons for that graph are “racist”.

  18. zcwotun says:

    the solutions aren’t too hard to find.

    1. can we finally leave iraq and afghanistan? as in today?

    2. the US absolutely does not need 11 aircraft carrier groups when literally no nation has more than 1/2 dinky half-carriers.

    3. Only paranoid delusionists who’ve been playing too much “Call of Duty” think that China or Russia will be a threat to the US when we still have a fleet of B-2′s and submarines that can level any nation back to the Stone Age with conventional bombs and conventional cruise missiles.

    4. All we need is a couple of hundred nuclear missiles to destory the world several time over.

  19. csainvestor says:

    105 million Americans earn less than 26 grand a year.
    thanks to inflation and stagnant wages, most families spend 22% of their incomes just on food and fuel.

    How many in the tea party do you suppose make less than 26k a year?

  20. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Haven’t downloaded the PDF yet, but just from the one graph and the comments here, I think we’re headed for some truly nasty shit (financial, military, environmental, and governmental). There will be real suffering.

    Looking back on the history of the 20th century, it used to be difficult to imagine how people and governments could have allowed the horrific events that occurred. Not so much anymore. As the future isn’t a foregone conclusion, and as there are means of averting crisis, it seems horrible events happen because we want them to.

    Strange that our Tea Party friend hasn’t commented since the ghoulish/foolish/jingoistic fiasco that was last night’s “debate.”

  21. Dogfish says:

    “How many in the tea party do you suppose make less than 26k a year?”

    Great quote along those lines in Griftopia by Taibbi.. paraphrasing, but the tea party types like Joe the Plumber identify with the rich because they think “they are one clogged toilet away from being millionaires”.

  22. Lyle says:

    The investment in human capital is no longer made directly by the capitalist, so he expects no return from it, he does expect a return from tools. (the amount of long term training is less and less all the time, up from the mail room to CEO is now a thing of the past). Yes the productivity of the worker has increased but likley its due to the additional investment in tools. I wish some economist would do the analysis and see the result.
    Of course another part is lower wages elsewhere.

  23. SecondLook says:

    I would suggest that one of the major factors in real income stagnation or decline for the large majority of American households has been the significant increase in cost of non-wage benefits. The employment cost index is telling in that regard. To quote from the most recent data:


    Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.7 percent, seasonally adjusted, for the
    3-month period ending June 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Wages and
    salaries (which make up about 70 percent of compensation costs) increased 0.4 percent, and benefits
    (which make up the remaining 30 percent of compensation) increased 1.3 percent.

    Civilian Workers

    Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.2 percent for the 12-month period ending
    June 2011. A year earlier—in June 2010—the increase was 1.9 percent. Wages and salaries
    increased 1.6 percent for the current 12-month period; the same as the June 2010 increase. Benefit
    costs accelerated to 3.6 percent, up from a 2.5-percent increase for the 12-month period ending June

    Private Industry Workers

    Compensation costs for private industry workers increased 2.3 percent over the year, compared
    to the 1.9-percent increase for the previous 12-month period. The wage and salary series increased
    1.7 percent for the current 12-month period. The change for the 12-month period ending June 2010 was
    1.6 percent. The increase in the cost of benefits jumped to 4.0 percent for the 12-month period ending
    June 2011, higher than the June 2010 increase of 2.4 percent. Employer costs for health benefits
    increased 3.6 percent for the 12-month period ending June 2011. In June 2010, the 12-month percent
    change was 5.0 percent.

    The main driver in rising compensation costs has been soaring health insurance premiums – only partially offset by increased employee sharing of that cost. In general, non-cash benefits have grown about 50% faster than nominal wages since the 1980′s – with the biggest rate occurring since 2002, when wages, in aggregate stopped growing at all, while the cost of benefits continued to grow.

    Currently, about 30% of an employee’s cost is non-wage. If the trends continue, that percentage is only going to grow, and likely cause even more disincentive to increase wages among employers. Not to mention the effect it has on who is hired – older workers, bringing higher health premiums, are even less appealing.

  24. rktbrkr says:

    Too many new jobs added over the preceding decades have been minimal value added work – burger flippers, we need an industrial policy that fosters these types of jobs – most other advanced countries have them. We need apprentice type programs like germany uses to great success to create well trained workers who can make stuff, not just junior college holding tanks that keep HS grads off the unemployment list for a couple years.

    Home construction during the boom years was kind of an exception, skilled labor that wasn’t exportable (although a lot of these jobs were done by illegals)

  25. mathman says:

    saw a great campaign poster for the GOP here:

    which states by the elephant graphic Republicans 2012
    Keeping Millions Out of Work
    to Put One Man Out of a Job

    Petey, i hear ya – we’re going down no matter who is at the helm of the Titanic (while we’re all stuck rearranging the deck chairs, since all the “lifeboats” are already secured for the wealthy).

    By the way, and for what it’s worth, Gerald Celente says next month will see a significant event in the financial crisis, while other sources say another great earthquake is in the making before year’s end.

    i guess we’ll see.

  26. [...] and it seems to dovetail real nicely with all other bad economic news. Highlights of the report via The Big Picture: Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from [...]

  27. mwfadil says:

    It would be interesting to see this same graph controlled for eduction.

    Invictus: See here.

  28. Julia Chestnut says:

    This information mixes with the IMF study that Krugman mentions (I think he has a link in his column) that came out the other day to create a particularly noxious compound:

    In the face of the figures you outline above, Invictus, the U.S. knowingly embarked on an austerity program. The primary outcomes of austerity, as if we didn’t know that already, are long-term unemployment, reduced GDP, and strain on the poor. It is just interesting to me to see the IMF admit it, considering that they are one of the leading proponents of austerity when countries get into trouble.

    I have to wonder how much of the precipitous downturn we saw after the debt ceiling debacle was people fundamentally understanding what austerity means on the ground. I’m not a huge believer in the trenchant analysis of the common person, but I think most people can see this coming from a mile away. Of course, no amount of QE will improve this one whit, just spark further commodity inflation.

  29. csainvestor says:

    i made a mistake. the typical household making 25 grand is spending 42% of income on just food and fuel!

  30. csainvestor says:

    This leads me to another point.

    Does anyone trust CPI for real inflation?
    Real Wages are lower now than they have due to CPI related inflation.
    But if you take medical costs, tuition and the real costs of food and fuel in a family budget not the weighting that cpi give it- american households have lost much MUCH more than 2% in wages.

    Some believe that CPI was changed to alter (diminish) COLA payments and to maintain a low minimum wage. If inflation was counted the was it was in the past, social security and the minimum wage would pay out double what they do now!

    what do you think?

    check out my investing blog:

  31. gordo365 says:

    Clearly – cutting taxes here is the right answer…

  32. csainvestor says:

    Let me correct this as i was in a hurry when i wrote it. apologies.

    This leads me to another point.

    Does anyone trust CPI for real inflation?
    Median Wages are lower now than they were since 1968 due to CPI related adjustments inflation.
    But if you take real inflation, not what (fake) CPI tells us, medical costs, tuition, food and fuel eat up much more (almost everything) in a real family budget than the weighting that CPI uses to account for these items.
    American households have lost a devastating amount in wages since the 70′s.

    Some believe that CPI was changed to alter (diminish) COLA payments and to maintain a low minimum wage. If inflation was calculated as it was before Greenspan changed it, social security and the minimum wage would pay out at least double what they do now!

    Is it any wonder most Americans are debt men walking? In order to survive they needed to tap into credit to make up for lost wages.

    What do you think?

  33. [...] of you are not, even if TBP may draw a somewhat higher income cohort.  (As I read the comments to my recent post on the Census release (having already almost completed this post), I guess what I’m trying to [...]