A Look at The Average American Income, Earnings and Poverty by Household, Gender and Race

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The US Census bureau collects and publishes the most timely and accurate income data on an annual basis, which make for interesting reading from a personal finance perspective. Income is primarily earnings from a job, but includes Social Security payments, pensions, child support, public assistance, annuities, money derived from rental properties, interest and dividends.


During the 2009 calendar year (latest available data), median household income totaled $49,800, which was unchanged previous year. Median is the half way point, so half of households had income more than this amount, and half less. Household income indicates the amount of money everyone 15 years and older living in the same household collectively brought in that year. Since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, median household income has declined 4.2 percent (from $51,965) and is 5.0 percent below the median household income peak ($52,388) that occurred in 1999

Income by Gender

However, while household income remain unchanged over last year, the census bureau found big differences by the gender of workers. Among people who worked year-round and full-time in 2009, men earned a median of $47,100 and women $36,300 or 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. So clearly there is still an income disparity based on gender. But per the graphic, the gap is closing and many experts predict that sometime between 2030-2040, average income levels should be the same.

Despite the overall disparity one positive was that earnings actually increased between 2008 and 2009 for both sexes.

Income By Race

Another variable that creates income disparity is race. As the graph below shows, Asians continued to have the highest average household income that stayed flat during the recession years in 2008 and 2009. The Hispanic race continues to increase their income levels, and are almost $6,000 above the much larger “black” racial group.

Poverty Rate


The official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent—up from 13.2 percent in 2008. This was the the highest poverty rate since 1994 but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959. 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008—the third consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. Poverty increased the most for children under the age of 18 (from 19.0 percent and 14.1 million in 2008 to 20.7 percent and 15.5 million in 2009). Children comprised 35.5 percent of people in poverty but only 24.5 percent of the total population.

What are your thoughts on the above graphics and trends?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

roger pipes August 10

Laurel, I had 4 knee surgeries, last a complete knee replacement by my early 50’s. I got disability when I was 50. I had to go to the Social Security Office in tears, could not think right and no lawyer. Why should they get 33% of back payments? I had too much money? Above $2,000 including my 401K retirement. There were many times I wanted to take the easy way out. Find a hobby. I started writing to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 10 years they’ve published 20 letters. Roger Pipes Ferguson 314-522-8697

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Laurel July 10

I would like to know WHY we have so much poverty in AMERICA, OUR country tis of thee,,, I am having a seiously hard time, doing without clothes and many oersonal items including sundries. Is there a way I could present my problem to the Govenrnment or Sociasl security office? I worked from age 15 while going for school for IBM and became a cpmputer operator. Brain damage from birth and a worsening Scoliosis problem stop me from being able to work.
Is there a Linen check or something available and will there be a much deserved and NEEDED stimulus check. I feel like the Government really does not care and wishes I would drop dead so they dont have to give me the little I get that I can barely survive. NO JUSTICE for seniors either. By the way , i do not lay around and I do Volunteer for my church in ministry when my condition lets me one or two days a wek max. Sometimes I am on my cane and it is embarrasing , degrading and this country has done a good job of lowering my self esteem! I am a Christian for Goodness sakes!!! God does not like the way the world is today. They are God’s own words yet we ignore our Creator? Why dont you just shoot me I will get to heaven fatster. Thanks for nothing greedy have all you want and need politicians.

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RB Boren October 28

Age contributes to the income gap, blacks and Hispanics have a lower median age than whites, and therefore are lower on the lifetime earnings curve.

Hispanics have a higher proportion of recent immigrants, in addition to a lower median age, which also contributes to the income gap.

Asians have both a higher proportion of immigrants and a higher proportion of small business entrepreneurs, where there is a lot of money to be made.

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