US Median Household Income hit a record high in 2019, and the poverty rate fell, according to a government survey released on September 15 that offered a snapshot of the economy before millions of American jobs were destroyed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Census officials cautioned, however, that the Coronavirus pandemic impacted their data collection, which was conducted after lockdowns this year, and may have skewed the results. “Given data-collection challenges during the pandemic, we are concerned about bias in the 2019 estimate,” the census agency officials wrote in a blog post, explaining that lower-income and minority household response to the survey dropped.
The US Census Bureau said in their report that real median household income jumped 6.8% from $64,324 in 2018 to $68,703 last year, the highest since the agency began tracking the data in 1967. It also said the nation’s poverty rate fell last year to 10.5%, a 1.3-percentage-point drop. Another measure of poverty that adjusts for government aid programs for low-income Americans showed a drop to 11.7% last year from 12.8% in 2018. Simultaneously, however, the number of people without health insurance for at least part of the year hit 29.6 million, up 1 million from the year before. The number of uninsured children also grew.
The report offered a look back at the economy’s state before the Coronavirus outbreak hit the US in February and March of this year, shuttering many businesses as the country sought to contain the pandemic. Since then, more than 6.5 million people in the US have contracted the highly contagious virus, and more than nearly 200,000 have died. Vast swaths of the economy were devastated, and 22 million Americans lost their jobs. While activity is now rebounding, economists warn the recovery may be uneven as federal stimulus money runs out with no signs of replenishment. A potential second wave of Coronavirus infections this autumn and winter as people move back indoors also looms large.
President Donald Trump, who had staked his re-election on economic gains before the outbreak, has downplayed the impact of the virus and risk of another wave, as he has urged states to fully re-open. He has also repeatedly touted gains on Wall Street (a narrow gauge of economic performance) and pledged to rebuild the economy if he wins a second term. His Democratic rival in the Presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, has said the gains since Coronavirus emerged have been notched and have left many segments of the working population still reeling.