US Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Stats 1978-2012

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its 2012 annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States. A good recap of the data can be found via the charts in this slide presentation [pdf]. Below is my even-briefer summary.

The US median household income (inflation-adjusted) was roughly $51,000 in 2012. This number has decreased or remained stagnant each year since 2007, and is actually about the same as in 1989.

The 2012 official poverty rate was 15.0 percent, and roughly the same amount of the population was without health insurance coverage, 15.4%.

I think this report provides some perspective about the realities of many families today. As a household that earns more than average, this reminds us that it is quite possible to spend less, as many others already do out of necessity. I am not one of those money gurus that tells everyone that they can get rich and retire early; it will always be very difficult for most people. I want to take advantage of my current situation, save money and use it to create future income and financial freedom, and then hopefully that will enable me to help more people down the road.


  1. Mickey Blue Eyes says:

    I’m sure the government is fudging the numbers, like when they say unemployment is only single-digits when it is really deep in double-digit territory. They don’t count those who gave up and dropped out of the workforce and are now wards of the welfare state as being “unemployed”. I’m sure they also aren’t counting the obscene amount of welfare and government spending on the “poor”. All the government has to do is change the definition of “poverty” to suit their goals.

    Considering it has been shown that a single mother of three working a part time minimum wage job can have the same disposable income as a married couple of two earning $60K, it’s easier and less work to be “poor”.

  2. Mickey,

    The government is not fudging any numbers in the way you describe. The federal poverty threshold moves with CPI. Here is historical data:

    Also, it sounds like you are complaining about U3, or “headline unemployment”. The government also collects U4 which includes workers discouraged from looking, U5 which adds people available to work, but have not looked recently, and U6 which adds the underemployed. The government reports all of this data it collects and FRED lets you display the data in nifty graphs:

    U6 was 13.7% as of August.

    As for your example, I don’t know what “easier” means, but it clearly takes more hours working at a lower wage to add up to the same amount of money earned at some set number of hours working at a higher wage. Finally, in my experience, the more child care you take on yourself, the more busy you are.

  3. Its curious they didn’t chart out the average IQ of the population which I’m sure must have dropped by over 40%. It seems we now live in a country of functional illiterates who can’t even remember their own recent history and are in a constant state of media manipulation and digitally induced amnesia.
    So the economic numbers as pointed out are less relevant for reasons beyond just their credibility.

  4. You should check your numbers bro

  5. Minnesota Saver says:

    Marketplace Money has a tool available to see how your habits compare to others with the same income and zip code:

  6. Mickey Blue Eyes says:

    “Considering it has been shown that a single mother of three working a part time minimum wage job can have the same disposable income as a married couple of two earning $60K, it’s easier and less work to be “poor”.”

    I’d be interested in a source for where this has been “shown.” Given that a full-time minimum wage job pays under $15K/yr, I really wonder about that particular claim.

  7. ttfiz,

    here is where he is getting his information. This reports initially came from the state of Pennsylvania, not a political entity. Basically, a very poor person benefits from not paying taxes and from getting benefits in the form of housing, child care, food assistance and so forth. As they make more income and lose benefit eligibility (plus begin to pay more taxes) the can actually lose ground. That is, with more income they actually end up with a lower standard of living.

  8. ddelj,

    Thanks for the link. All of what you said is true (there are places in the ranges where loss of benefits don’t cover the increase in income), but the statement by Mickey Blue Eyes inflates these things, as is usually the case. Without digging too deeply into the actual numbers and their reliability (usually quite low for these things), he overstates even what is shown on that page – a $29k/year job is twice as much as a full-time minimum wage job, not to mention a part-time one as he stated.

    As far as the premise given in that article, or ones like it (I found a few others making similar claims), making the numbers work depend in a large part on assigning a large Medicaid/CHIPs amount to the benefit side of the smaller income. But every example I found did not bother to note that most people with $60k jobs also have health care benefits from their job, which makes for a skewed comparison. I have no doubt an in-depth look at the other benefits would find similar problems with number inflation to match an already held belief.

    No doubt there are a few people who are willing to give up a lot of standard of living for not having to work, but most of these things are over-inflated, and hard to eliminate without hurting people in real need. I know way too many really lazy people working full-time at jobs paying less than $60k a year to believe it is possible for them to quit and still have the same or better standard of living. 🙂

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