The Blog

Americans’ Incomes Have Dropped 6.7 Percent During the ‘Recovery’

10:03 AM, Nov 1, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

New evidence suggests there’s a reason why this economic “recovery” hasn’t felt much like a recovery. Figures from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, compiled by Sentier Research, show that the “recovery” has actually been harder on most Americans than the recession from which they’ve allegedly been recovering. 

Depression Great

According to Sentier’s report, the median American household income has actually fallen during the “recovery.”  Not only that, but it has fallen even more than it did during the recession. Gordon Green, former chief of the Governments Division at the U.S. Census Bureau and co-author of the report (with fellow Census veteran John Coder), says, “Real income fell by 3.2 percent during [the recession].  And during the recovery it went down by 6.7 percent.” So “income [has] declined twice as much in the recovery as in the recession itself.”

According to the report — which has been referenced by both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times — in early 2000, Americans’ median annual household income was $55,836, in real (inflation-adjusted, June 2011) dollars. By the start of the recession (in December 2007), Americans’ real incomes had fallen 0.9 percent, to $55,309 — a decline of $527. During the recession (which ended in June 2009), their incomes fell an additional 3.2 percent, to $53,518 — a decline of another $1,791. During the first two years of the “recovery” (from June 2009 to June 2011), they fell an additional 6.7 percent, to $49,909 — a decline of another $3,609.

So, from the start of 2000 to mid-2011, the typical American household’s real income dropped nearly $6,000 — and more than 60 percent of that drop (over $3,600) came after the start of the “recovery” and thus squarely on Obama’s watch. 

While the real median income of American households dropped 6.7 percent during the first two years of the “recovery,” the incomes of many households dropped even more than that. The income drop was steeper for those under 25 years of age (their incomes were down 9.5 percent), for those between 25 and 34 years of age (down 9.8 percent), for black Americans (down 9.4 percent), for families with three or more children (down 9.5 percent), and for families headed by part-time workers (down 11.5 percent). And that’s despite the fact that the report’s income tallies include unemployment compensation and monetary public assistance (both state and federal).

In fact, the anemic economy has meant that Americans’ incomes have declined during the “recovery” even without adjusting for inflation. According to Green, in actual (non-inflation-adjusted) dollars, the median American household income was $51,140 at the start of the “recovery,” but it fell to $49,909 two years later. 

Suffice it to say, such declining incomes are giving new meaning to the word “recovery.”

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers