Things are looking up; at least, in terms of the economy, for once. Last year, Americans saw the largest economic gains in almost the entire span of a generation as poverty levels fell, health insurance found more broad coverage, and incomes—most importantly—rose sharply for households in every characteristics of the economy, putting an end to many years of stagnation.
In 2015, the median household income in the United States was $56,500. This is up an impressive 5.2 percent from the year before and it is the largest single-year increase on record since record keeping began nearly 50 years ago, according to the Census Bureau. Also in accordance, the number of Americans living in poverty also saw its sharpest decline in many decades. Alternately, the Census Bureau reports more than 90 percent of Americans now have some kind of health insurance, which is surely hopeful sign of restoration.
The recognized gains, of course, are a major, important milestone in not only economic health but also in overall American economic expansion. This is the first time in recent years that the benefits of a renewed prosperity have found broad reach.
Thus, IHS Global Insight director of consumer economics Chris G. Christopher Jr notes, “It has been a long slog from the depths of the Great Recession, but things are finally starting to improve for many of American households.”
Of course, if anything, this is hopefully a sign of things to come and not necessarily that the economy is vastly improved.
For example, Washington University (St Louis) professor of social welfare, Mark R. Rank, notes that although the new data is obviously pleasant news, poverty and income inequality in America is still extremely higher than in most other developed countries. In response to the uptick, he comments, “It would take a lot to move that needle;” with “that needle” being the metric of inequality.
Indeed, it is going to take many years to restore full health to the US economy. The median household, for example, is still 1.6 percent lower than it was in 2007 (after adjusting for inflation). The economy also, however, remains 2.4 percent down from the apex it reached during the bullish late 1990s. And while fewer Americans are living in poverty since last year, there are still 3.5 million who do—approximately 8 percent of the American population.