For the First Time in 5 Years, U.S. Household Income Didn’t Decline

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The economic slide for many U.S. families appears to have stopped. Good news, but how about a turnaround? We're kind of stuck in neutral.

While the wealthiest Americans can celebrate the fact they’ve regained everything lost to the recession, the rest of us will have to find cheer in the fact we’re at least not getting poorer.

A new Census Bureau report shows that the poverty rate and median household income didn’t worsen last year. It was the first time in half a decade, The New York Times says.

That’s not to say things are great. About 46.5 million Americans are still in poverty, the report says, and the number of seniors in poverty rose. Inflation-adjusted median household income is $51,017.

“That is down about 9 percent from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999, though the economy has grown by about 28 percent since then,” the Times says. “Income is also down about 8.3 percent since 2007, when the economy started to contract.”

There are a couple of bright spots in the report. Slightly fewer people are going without health insurance. About 3 million more people had coverage last year than in 2011. The number of men working full time and year-round also increased by about 1 million. (“The change for women was not statistically significant,” the report says.)

Most other measures were little changed from the previous year. We’re kind of stuck in neutral.

“Everything’s on hold, but at a bad level,” Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution told the Times. “Don’t expect things to change until the American economy begins to generate more jobs.”

Stacy Johnson

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