Medium Income and Poverty in the United States

There is a basic belief in America that if you work hard, you can support yourself and your family. I have always argued that this is a myth for a great many of us. There is a simple proof: Median Household Income — the income of every resident of that house that is over the age of 15.

Median household income divides households in a country or region into two equal segments with the first half of households earning less than the median household income and the other half earning more. It is considered by many statisticians to be a better indicator than the mean household income as it is not dramatically affected by unusually high or low values.

How many persons in a household? The US Census does not give details on this number, so we have to assume that it’s more than 2 and equal to or less then 4. These are the standard numbers used in the social sciences.

As of 2016, the median household income in the US is $59,039. This is the highest on record. This means that 50% of American houses live on a total of $59K or less per year. Half of all the families of the richest country in history live on $59K or less per year. Half!

NOTE: This is all income before taxes!

Let the sink in for a few seconds. Half of all the houses in this country make ~59K or less. I’ve worked all sorts of jobs through my life. I know what is like to make $2.30 an hour (+ tip) and I know what it’s like to make $60K annually. I’ve cleaned bathrooms, scrubbed dishes, worked the grill, installed cable TV, sold on eBay, waited tables, took your drive-thru order, packaged electronics all day in a warehouse, tried pyramid schemes, and filed TPS reports 🙂

I can tell you exactly what I made at every stage of my life and it was always check-to-check. That’s not living. That’s called being poor.

There is very good evidence that no matter how hard half of Americans try, they are not going to move up on the economic ladder. Please see The Great Gatsby Curve and The 9.9% – The New American Aristocracy.

So not only is “hard work” a complete myth, we also have many politicians that have no clue as to the income levels of their constituents. We are ruled by millionaires with no concept of reality.

Case and point:

In 2012, Mitt Romney gave an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is $100,000 middle income?

MITT ROMNEY: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.

Yes. You read correctly. The Republican nominee for President of the United States thinks that medium income in the United States is maybe $200,000-$250,000.

That is how disconnected our leaders are from reality. Medium income is in the ~$50K’s. Half all American families make ~$50K or less and the Republican nominee for President of the United States thinks that the middle income is a quarter of a million dollars!

How many families make over $200,000 in the U.S.? Only 5% of all American families make that kind of money.

Of course, it makes sense that politicians would see “middle class” as extending to people who make “$200,000 to $250,000.” These lawmakers are far wealthier than the people they represent. The typical Democrat in Congress has a net worth of $878,500. The typical Republican? $957,500. Averaged, that’s more than nine times the net worth of most Americans.

That our politicians believe “middle income is $200,000 to $250,000” is a sign of their isolation from everyone but the well-off.

I argue that if half of the families in this country live on $50K or less, then half the families in this country live in poverty. And here lies the rub: If our politicians think that middle income is around a quarter million dollars per family, then they are clueless as to the level of poverty in the U.S. They are simply incapable of conceptualizing that half the population lives in poverty.

With these 2 opposing realities, it’s safe to assume the our current class of politicians don’t have any solutions to the question of poverty in the United States.

Thanks for reading,


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