American household income finally topped 1999 peak previous year

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Median household income rose 3.2 percent to $59,039 last year, marking the second consecutive year of income gains since the economic crisis, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The income growth, however, likely stems from more people returning to work and more moving up to full-time jobs, as opposed to workers getting significant raises, said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Asian-Americans reported the highest household incomes, at $81,431, which was little changed from 2015.

The Census data said it changed its income questions in 2014, which makes it hard to make comparisons before that year.

Real income grew drastically more for the top 10 percent of Americans than for the bottom 90 percent.

The median household income took a serious hit during and after the Great Recession.

Median household income rose 3.2% when adjusted for inflation to $59,039, the second straight rise and a new all-time high, finally surpassing the previous record set in 1999.

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The bureau said the 2016 poverty rate was not significantly higher than the 12.5 percent poverty rate in 2007, the year before the most recent US recession.

Sheldon Danziger, head of the Russell Sage Foundation poverty research group, said "expanding the earned income tax credit. and more spending on badly needed infrastructure and early childhood education" would lift employment and productivity. The median income for white households in 2016 was about $65,000; it was $39,500 for black households.

The poverty rate has returned to pre-recession levels. That's $22 per year.

There was a big difference in the uninsured rate between the 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and those that did not.

America's poverty rate also fell to 12.7%, its lowest rate since 2007.

The percentage of people without health insurance was 8.8%, a decline of 0.3%.

Income inequality and wage stagnation have plagued most American households in the post-recession years, crimping family budgets at a time when the cost of essentials such as health care have risen sharply. While that is an improvement, it still leaves 40.6 million Americans in poverty.

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