Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions. Each household is measured by the income of every resident over the age of 18. Income includes wages and salaries, unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support payments received(child support given does not deduct income measured), regular rental receipts, as well as any personal business, investment, or other kinds of income received routinely.
The residents of the household do not have to be related to the head of the household for their earnings to be considered part of the household's income. As households tend to share a similar economic context, the use of household income remains among the most widely accepted measures of income. That the size of a household is not commonly taken into account in such measures may distort any analysis of fluctuations within or among the household income categories, and may render direct comparisons between quintiles difficult or even impossible.
In 2006, the "real" (adjusted for inflation) median annual household income rose 1.3% to $50,233.00 according to the Census Bureau. The real median earnings of men who worked full-time, year-round climbed between 2006 and 2007, from $43,460 to $45,113 (about 3.6 times minimum wage in 2006 to 3.7 times minimum wage in 2007). For women, the corresponding increase was from $33,437 to $35,102 (2.8 and 2.9 times minimum wage respectively). The median income per household member (including all working and non-working members above the age of 14) was $26,036 in 2006.
In 2006, there were approximately 116,011,000 households in the United States. 1.93% of all households had annual incomes exceeding $250,000. 12.3% fell below the federal poverty threshold and the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178. The aggregate income distribution is highly concentrated towards the top, with the top 6.37% earning roughly one third of all income, and those with upper-middle incomes controlling a large, though declining, share of the total earned income.
Income inequality in the United States, which had decreased slowly after World War II until 1970, began to increase in the 1970s until reaching a peak in 2006. It declined a little in 2007. Households in the top quintile (i.e., top 20%), 77% of which had two or more income earners, had incomes exceeding $91,705. Households in the mid quintile, with a mean of approximately one income earner per household had incomes between $36,000 and $57,657. Households in the lowest quintile had incomes less than $19,178 and the majority had no income earner.
The 2006 economic survey also found that households in the top two income quintiles, those with an annual household income exceeding $60,000, had a median of two income earners while those in the lower quintiles (2nd and middle quintile) had median of only one income earner per household. Overall, the United States followed the trend of other developed nations with a relatively large population of relatively affluent households outnumbering the poor. Among those in between the extremes of the income strata are a large number of households with moderately high middle class incomes and an even larger number of households with moderately low incomes.
While the median household income has increased 30% since 1990, it has increased only slightly when considering inflation. In 1990, the median household income was $30,056 or $44,603 in 2003 dollars. While personal income has remained relatively stagnant over the past few decades, household income has risen due to the rising percentage of households with two or more income earners. Between 1999 and 2004 household income stagnated showing a slight increase since 2004.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita income has increased every year for the past 10 years, with an annual average of 5.2% gains for the past 4 years. The recently released US Income Mobility Study showed economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Income mobility of individuals was considerable in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period with roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom quintile moving up to a higher income group within 10 years. In addition, the median incomes of those initially in the lower income groups increased more than the median incomes of those initially in the higher income groups.
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“There are few sorrows, however poignant, in which a good income is of no avail.”
—Logan Pearsall Smith (18651946)