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Trends in Income by Selected Characteristics: 1947 to 1988

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Report Number P60-167


Since 1947 the Census Bureau has published annual income estimates in its P-60 Series. These reports provide income distributions of households, families, and persons by a variety of demographic, social, and economic characteristics. Traditionally, P-60 reports have contained very little in the way of historical income statistics. Researchers who wish to examine an income time series have generally created their own set of statistics based on published estimates from individual P-60 reports. This can be difficult, as few users have access to the entire P-60 Series. In this report, previously published P-60 Series estimates of household, family, and individual incomes have been assembled in one place for the convenience of users who wish to examine time-series income estimates. Income estimates are shown in both current and constant (1988) dollars.

Census Bureau income reports have traditionally used the CPI-U as a price index in computing constant dollar income estimates.1 A recent report, Money Income and Poverty Status in the United States: 1988, was the first Census Bureau study to include information on the use of the CPI-U-X1 as a price index. As discussed in the following section, use of the CPI-U-X1 as a price index provides a different picture of economic progress over the last 15 years. All constant dollar estimates in this report are shown using both the CPI-U and CPI-U-X1 as price deflators.

The 1988 income estimates in this report are based on a new processing system. Though it appears that this revision resulted in relatively minor changes to estimates of income, any revision to the processing system results in a disruption to the income time series. In order to create a bridge between the original and revised income estimates, most of the 1987 income figures in this report are also based on the new processing system. See the section on "Revisions to the March CPS Processing System" for further details on this and other CPS processing modifications.

Primarily, this report examines the median incomes of households, families, and persons over time by a variety of characteristics. There are, however, a few other types of analyses provided in this report. Percent distributions are included for households, families, and persons in tables 1, 9, 19, 28, 35 and 44, respectively. Tables 2 and 10 show share of aggregate income received by each fifth and top 5 percent of households and families; per capita income estimates are provided in tables 20 and 45.

1 See appendix A for more information on price indexes.

A Note on Language

Census statistics date back to 1790 and reflect the growth and change of the United States. Past census reports contain some terms that today’s readers may consider obsolete and inappropriate. As part of our goal to be open and transparent with the public, we are improving access to all Census Bureau original publications and statistics, which serve as a guide to the nation's history.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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