The Census Bureau has been tracking median household income since 1967. America has endured seven recessions since then. The first five of those recessions saw a similar pattern when they ended: By the fifth year of recovery, median incomes had risen. This was true even for the recession that ended in 1980 – when the country fell back into recession a year after that recovery began. The pattern broke after the 2001 recession: Median income dipped, but still, in Year 5 of that recovery, it had climbed nearly back to where it was at recession’s end.
This time, as the economists like to say, is different.
Census numbers released Tuesday show median income has – and this is actually a hopeful statement – finally bottomed out in this recovery. It’s been stable for three straight years now, after continuing to fall in 2009 and 2010, as if the recession had never ended.
The trend looks even bleaker if you exclude non-Hispanic white men. White women, black men and black women are all still earning less at the median than they did in 2009.
You can read those charts as evidence of continued racial and gender divide in the U.S. economy. Or as a more-detailed example of how Americans at the middle still live under a recession-like gloom.
Update: Per reader request, here’s a chart showing the changes for Hispanics and Asians by gender. The gains for Hispanics are comparatively large, and they mirror the income gains that are driving the reduction in child poverty for Hispanics.