New census data show strong 2016 earnings growth across-the-board, with black and Hispanic workers seeing the fastest growth for second consecutive year // Economic Policy Institute Blog
Today's Census Bureau report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in 2016 shows that median household incomes for all race and ethnic groups increased between 2015 and 2016. Encouragingly, groups that, by and large, had seen the worst losses in the years since the Great Recession saw the biggest earnings gains for the second consecutive year. Real incomes increased 5.7 percent (from $37,365 to $39,490) among African Americans, 4.3 percent (from $45,719 to $47,675) among Hispanics, 4.2 percent (from $78,143 to $81,431) among Asians, and 2.0 percent (from $63,747 to $65,041) among non-Hispanic whites. The increase in incomes was statistically significant for all groups except Asians, resulting in some improvement of racial and ethnic income gaps between 2015 and 2016. The median black household earned just 61 cents for every dollar of income the white median household earned (up from 59 cents), while the median Hispanic household earned just 73 cents (up from 71 cents). Meanwhile, households headed by persons who are foreign-born saw an increase in incomes of 4.9 percent between 2015 and 2016 (from $52,956 to $55,559), compared to an increase of 3.3 percent (from $57,896 to $59,781) among households with a native-born household head.
Based on EPI's imputed historical income values (see the note under Figure A for an explanation), real median household incomes for all groups, except Hispanics, remain below their 2007 levels. Compared to 2007, 2016, median household incomes are down 1.5 percent (-$595) for African Americans, 1.2 percent (-$781) for non-Hispanic whites and 1.4 percent (-$1,158) for Asians, but increased 9.9 percent ($4,295) for Hispanics. Asian households continue to have the highest median income, despite large income losses in the wake of the recession.
The primary driving force behind the slow return to pre-recession income levels has been stagnant wage growth. Real wages had been essentially flat since 2000, but wage growth received an added boost in 2015, as a result of low inflation. Relative to the pre-recession levels in 2007, 2016 real earnings of men working full-time, full-year are up for all race and ethnic groups—white men (4.8 percent), Hispanic men (17.9 percent), and black men (14.9 percent). As a result, the black-white and Hispanic-white male earnings gaps narrowed slightly. Black men earned 71 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2016 (compared to 65 cents/dollar in 2007) and Hispanic men earned 66 cents on the dollar (compared to 58 cents/dollar in 2007).
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