To add equity data to the national dialogue about growth and prosperity, every week the National Equity Atlas posts a new chart related to current events and issues.
Yesterday, the Census Bureau released a report on 2015 income and poverty data, announcing that median household income increased by over 5 percent—the fastest growth on record. As President Obama described in a Facebook post and video with Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the gains were largest among the bottom fifth of households.
To highlight why this gain — especially among the bottom quintile of earners — is so important, this week’s chart looks at real earned income growth for full-time wage and salary workers in the United States from 1980 to 2012.
Over the three decades from 1980 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 10 percent of workers decreased the most at more than 11 percent. In fact, the whole bottom half of workers experienced real declines in their incomes over this period. At the other end, those in the top 10 percent saw their earnings increase by nearly 15 percent. The announcement that real income growth in 2015 was the fastest since 1969 for households at the 10th, 20th, 40th, 50th, and 60th percentiles is a promising finding, though there is still more to be done.
These income increases, combined with refundable tax credits, lifted millions of families and children out of poverty. In 2015, 9.2 million Americans, including 4.8 million children, moved above the poverty line with the help of credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Expanding these social safety net programs through a more equitable tax code and advancing pre-tax income strategies like minimum wage increases and stronger collective bargaining rights are key to supporting the more than 8 million families still in poverty. For more information on policies that contribute to wage growth, see the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda to Raise America’s Pay.
To view the distribution of income growth in your community over the last three decades, visit the National Equity Atlas and type in your city, region, or state. Download the charts and share them on social media using #equitydata.