In 1997, real/1 median income of U.S. households returned to the peak reached in 1989, the year before the most recent recessionary period (lasting from July 1990 to March 1991). U.S. households began their recovery in median household income in 1995 and since then have experienced significant annual increases in their income.
Subgroups that achieved/2 or surpassed their 1989 income levels in 1997 included White households, households maintained by a person 25 to 34 years old, households maintained by a person 65 years old and over, households outside of metropolitan areas, households in the West, family households, and nonfamily households maintained by a woman. Subgroups that had already achieved their 1989 income level within the past 2 years and continue to sustain or exceed that level include Black households, households in the Midwest and South, households maintained by a person 55 to 64 years old, married-couple households, and family households maintained by women with no husband present. These data are from the March supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS).
The CPS supplement conducted in March of each year is one of the best known and most widely used of all continuing federal household surveys. For 50 years, analysts, researchers, and policymakers have used the CPS to examine annual changes in income and earnings and to compare those changes with historical trends. Daily news (whether television, radio, or newspaper) frequently details statistics on Americans’ jobs, income, poverty status, health insurance coverage, marital status, migration, and so forth based on these data.
(The figures in parentheses denote 90-percent confidence intervals.)
1 Changes in real income refer to comparisons after adjusting for inflation. The percentage changes in prices between earlier years and 1997 were computed by dividing the annual average Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for 1997 by the annual average for earlier years. See Table B-1 in Appendix B for values of the CPI-U from 1947 to 1997.
2 For the purpose of this report, we say that a particular subgroup "achieved" the 1989 pre-recessionary income level (in 1997 dollars) if the difference between the income level for the reference year and that for 1989 is not statistically significant at the 90-percent level of confidence. The difference, or percent change, may be positive or negative.
3 People of Hispanic origin may be of any race, therefore data users should use caution in comparing data for Hispanics to data for race groups (such as White, Black and Asian and Pacific Islander).
4 The differences were not statistically significant between the 1996-1997 percent increases in median income among White, Black, Hispanic-origin, and White, not Hispanic households.
5 The differences were not statistically significant among the 1996-1997 percent increases in median household income for the Midwest, South, and West.
6 The difference was not statistically significant between the percent increases in the earnings of men and women.