The real incomes of America's richest and poorest households
financial crisis and its aftermath have taken a significant toll on American households, but many of the country's economic problems predate the crisis. New data on income and poverty released by the Census Bureau reveal a picture of sustained stagnation in incomes for most American households. From the richest to the poorest, inflation-adjusted incomes were lower in 2010 than they were a decade ago. Stagnation is a relatively new phenomenon for the rich, but not for the rest. In 2010, the typical American household earned an inflation-adjusted income of $49,445, scarcely different from that in 1989 and a fall of 2.3% since 2009. Current incomes are at roughly the level of the late 1970s for those near the bottom of the income spectrum. Of course, many of today's consumer products are of higher quality today than they were in the 1970s, and the typical household has access now to things like iPods and flatscreen televisions that didn't exist then. On the other hand, the cost of everything from housing to education has risen steadily in recent decades. From a real income perspective, the American economy has already experienced a lost decade, but for the median household the picture is one of a generation of stagnation.