2013 Median Household Income is 8 Percent Lower Than 2007 Income

BOYHOODI’m a few weeks late to the game, but the US Census Bureau released its latest volume of Income and Poverty in the United States, focusing on calendar year 2013.

There’s a lot of information in this 72-page PDF, including pages and pages of charts. I’m tempted to actually read the whole thing, because I suspect it’s fascinating, but today I want to look at one single piece of information:

Median household income was $51,939 in 2013, not statistically different from the 2012 median in real terms, 8.0 percent lower than the 2007 (the year before the most recent recession) median ($56,436), and 8.7 percent lower than the median household income peak ($56,895) that occurred in 1999.

I had no idea that median household income peaked in 1999. I was a senior in high school that year, getting ready to graduate as a member of the Smoke-Free Class of 2000. They taught us to sing “two-triple-zero, everyone’s a hero or a she-ro.”

In 2004, the year I graduated from college, Anna Quindlen wrote her Newsweek essay An Apology to the Graduates, which included:

There’s an honorable tradition of starving students; it’s just that, between the outsourcing of jobs and a boom market in real estate, your generation envisions becoming starving adults.

When I read that essay, months after I graduated, it was the first time I had seen the reality I was experiencing in print, though I can’t say for sure that Anna Quindlen was the first person to write about it. Within a few years, the economic downturn was old news—and we hadn’t even hit 2008 yet.

So I can’t help but look at this statistic from Income and Poverty in the United States and think about the past fifteen years.

Also: $51,939 isn’t that much—and that’s the median, not the average. An equal number of household incomes fall below $51,939 as fall above it. (I’ll fall below it this year, though not by a lot.)

What about you? How was your life different in 1999, 2007, and 2013?

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