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13 September 2017, 12:39 | Frank Carlson
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The poverty rate dropped in President Barack Obama's final year of office as median household income rose to a record high last year. The figures for 2016 mark the second consecutive annual increase in the median household income - a closely watched metric for how the American middle class is doing from year to year, adjusted for inflation.
Households gained the most on the Northeast and West, but the median income was essentially flat in the Midwest and actually declined in the South. The Census changed its questions in 2014 in order to capture more sources of income, so officials don't want to make comparisons over longer periods of time. It is based on interviews with 70,000 households and includes detailed data on incomes and poverty across a range of demographic groups. The South and the Western regions of the USA saw the biggest income increases, while the Northeast and Midwest saw no statistically significant change at all.
That percentage-point increase in 2015 was the largest since 1998, when real median income increased 3.7 percent from 1997, Jonathan Rothbaum, chief of the bureau's statistics branch, said in an online analysis at the time.
The median USA income has now posted solid gains for two straight years. Overall, the story was pretty upbeat in 2016, the previous year of President Barack Obama's term.
The Census Bureau also released its Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account government assistance and certain expenses not factored into the official poverty rate.
The share of the population without health insurance fell to 8.8 percent, or 28.1 million people, down from 9.1 percent in 2015. Still, almost 41 million Americans remained in poverty in 2016. About 1.2 million more Americans earned income in 2016 than in 2015, and 2.2 million more had full-time year-round jobs. Basically, the good news from last year's income report, which was the first really positive sign in almost a decade, may be turning into a trend.
Among racial groups, Asian households had the highest median income in 2016, at $81,431.
The gap between the earnings of women and men narrowed slightly in 2016, with women now earning just more than 80 cents for every dollar men earn.
The agency released data on income, poverty, and health insurance for 2016.
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