Record Gap Between Income Measures Shows Rising Inequality

To get a clearer picture of income inequality across U.S. households, consider adjusting your choice of statistical measures.

On the surface, Census Bureau data released Tuesday showed little change in the gap between rich and poor because the traditional measure of income inequality – the Gini index – was basically steady from 2015 to 2016.  But the difference between median and mean household income hit a record last year, which suggests the rich got richer as they left the typical American household further behind.

Specifically, median household income, after adjusting for inflation, rose 3.2 percent in 2016 to $59,039, while mean income increased at a bit of a faster clip – 3.6 percent – to $83,143. That’s a difference of $24,104, up from $23,035 in 2015 and just $5,318 when the series started in 1967.

Because the mean is influenced by especially high or low earners on either end of the spectrum, it reflects the emergence of disproportionately affluent



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