Economic data released in a new report from the Census Bureau – titled “Income and Poverty in the United States” – shows just how successful Barack Obama’s presidency was, particularly for middle and lower class workers.
According to the new report, which analyzed data in 2016 – Obama’s final year in the White House – incomes went up, poverty went down, and millions of more full-time workers gained employment.
Some of the report’s key findings:
- Real median household income increased 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016.2 This is the second consecutive annual increase in median household income.
- The number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.2 million in 2016.
- The 2016 female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.805, a 1.1 percent increase from the 2015 ratio. This is the first time the female-to-male earnings ratio has experienced an annual increase since 2007.
- The official poverty rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points between 2015 and 2016. At 12.7 percent, the 2016 poverty rate is not statistically different from 2007 (12.5 percent), the year before the most recent recession.
- The number of people in poverty fell by 2.5 million between 2015 and 2016.
The data is great news for the American economy, but it’s also quite stunning given the dire economic situation the former president inherited.
When President Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. economy was shedding more than 800,000 jobs per month, the stock market was in the tank, the American auto industry was on its deathbed, and there were very real concerns that the economy would fall into another Great Depression.
But after eight years of Obama economic policies – some of which were risky and unpopular – not only was a complete economic collapse averted, but Obama managed to do something remarkable: preside over two consecutive years of solid income growth for middle-class Americans.
If you’re wondering if the numbers are just a fluke, take a look at last year’s report.
In 2015, median household income spiked 5.2 percent – the largest increase since the Census Bureau began tracking the data decades in 1967. The poverty rate that year also fell by 1.2 percentage points, the biggest drop since 1968.
This year’s report is the second in a row proving that Obama’s economic policies didn’t just benefit those at the top, as some Republicans and frustrated progressives often suggest, but it lifted all boats to some degree.
We still have a long way to go in order to ensure increased productivity among middle and lower class workers translates to measurable wage increases, but as Robert Samuelson wrote in today’s Washington Post, “The middle class is back.”
For that, we can all say, “Thanks, Obama.”