U.S. Income Surges, but Women, Minorities Remain Behind

2015 saw an increase in median household income for whites, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics, the newest report from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed, the highest increase being among Hispanic households.

According to the report, 2015 saw an additional estimated 3.3 million people with earnings over 2014, regardless of work experience. All households saw a 5.2 percent increase from 2014, with the median income jumping from $53,718 to $56,516 the first increase in income since 2007, before the recession. Asian households continue to see the highest median income, but the increase from 2014 to 2015 was the lowest of the racial groups. The last reported annual increase for Asian households was 1999. This is the first time non-Hispanic whites and Blacks have seen an increase since 2007. Hispanics last saw an increase in 2013.

Only Hispanics saw a percentage increase higher than the average.

Household Median Income by Race

Median Income, 2014Median Income, 2015Percentage Change in Real Median Income
Race of Householder
White, not Hispanic$60,325$62,9504.4%

According to the report, income inequality has not changed significantly in several decades:

“Comparing the 2015 real median income of non-Hispanic White households with that of other households shows that the ratio of Asian to non-Hispanic White income was 1.23, the ratio of Black to non-Hispanic White income was 0.59, and the ratio of Hispanic to non-Hispanic White income was 0.72. Between 1972 and 2015, the changes in the Black to non-Hispanic White income ratio and the Hispanic to non-Hispanic White income ratio were not statistically significant. The 2015 Asian to non-Hispanic White income ratio was not statistically different from the 1987 ratio.”

Gender Inequality Persists

Both women and men with earnings saw an increase in median income from 2014 to 2015, with women seeing a slightly higher percentage increase than men. However, the difference in income by gender remains significant.

Earnings of Full-Time, Year-Round Workers by Gender

Median Income, 2014Median Income, 2015Percentage Change in Real Median Income
Men With Earnings$50,441$51,2121.5%
Women With Earnings$39,667$40,7422.7%

The female-to-male earnings ratio was not statistically different between 2014 and 2015, going up from 0.79 to 0.80. The ratio has not increased significantly since 2007, when it increased to 0.778, up from 0.769 in 2006. In 1960, the earliest data the report provides, the ratio was 0.607.

The difference between genders was also displayed in breakdowns by household. Of family households, male households with no wife present earned an average of $55,861, while female households with no husband present saw an annual $37,797. Male and female household incomes increased from 2014 by 3.9 and 4.4 percent, respectively.

For nonfamily households women still continue to trail behind men but saw a significant increase from 2014 to 2015.

Median Income by Type of Household

Median Income, 2014Median Income, 2015Percentage Change in Real Median Income
Type of Household (Nonfamily)
Female Householder$26,703$29,0228.7%
Male Householder$39,226$40,7623.9%

Although the report also breaks down earnings by married and nonmarried households, it does not specify any differences between same-gender and opposite-gender marriages.

The report does not provide information on median income for workers with disabilities.


According to the report, the official poverty rate in the U.S. for 2015 was 13.5 percent, a decrease from 14.8 percent in 2014.

Breakdown by race displays continued inequality when it comes to Americans in poverty. However, all racial groups saw a decrease from 2014.

People in Poverty by Race

Below poverty, 2014Below poverty, 2015Change in poverty
White, not Hispanic10.1%9.1%-9.9%

People with disabilities remain in poverty at more than double the rate of the population without a disability, the report found. And the percent for people with disabilities remained statistically unchanged from 2014 to 2015.

People in Poverty by Disability Status

Below poverty, 2014Below poverty, 2015Change in poverty
Disability Status
Total, aged 18 to 6413.5%12.4%-8.1%
With a disability28.5%28.5%Z*
With no disability12.3%11.1%-9.8%

*Z represents or rounds to zero.

Women remain in poverty at higher rates than men and saw almost the same decrease from 2014 to 2015. 14.8 percent of women are below poverty, compared to 12.2 percent of men. Rates for women and men in poverty decreasedat almost identical rates.

When broken down by families, males with no wife and females with no husband present both fared worse than married-couple families; however, the poverty rate for female family households with no husband was close to double that of the male family households with no wife (these rates were not broken down by race):

Poverty Status of Families by Type of Family

Below poverty, 2014Below poverty, 2015Change in poverty
Type of Family
All families11.6%10.4%-10.3%
Married-couple families6.2%5.4%-12.9%
Male householder, no wife present15.7%14.9%-5.1%
Female householder, no husband present30.6%28.2%-7.8%

The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015

On the same day that the income report was published, the Census Bureau also released an additional report, “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015.” This report gives data on poverty using the supplemental poverty measure (SPM), which analyzes poverty rates by slightly different criteria than the official poverty rate. The income report describes the SPM as “an additional indicator of economic well-being [that] provides a deeper understanding of economic conditions and policy effects.”

The SPM uses more specific criteria than the official measure. For instance, the official poverty measure’s measurement units are families or unrelated individuals. The SPM specifies further: “Families (including any coresident unrelated children, foster children, unmarried partners and their relatives) or unrelated individuals (who are not otherwise included in the family definition).” Resources are measured differently as well. The official measure uses gross before-tax cash income. The SPM takes into account more factors: “Sum of cash income, plus noncash benefits that families can use to meet their FCSU [food, clothing, shelter and utilities] needs, minus taxes (or plus tax credits), minus work expenses, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and support paid to another household.”

The statistics in “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015” vary insignificantly from the official poverty measure numbers given in the income report (for instance, the percentage of all people in poverty in the income report was 13.5 percent, compared to 13.7 in the poverty report). And there are only slight differences between the official poverty and supplemental poverty measures. Interestingly, though, in some instances the percentage goes up when using the SPM, while in others it goes down:

People in Poverty by Different Poverty Measures by Selected Characteristics

OfficialSPMChange from Official to SPM
White, not Hispanic9.2%10.0%8.7%
Disability Status
Total, 18 to 64 Years12.4%13.8%11.3%
With a disability28.5%26.5%-7.0%
With no disability11.0%12.8%16.4%

*Z represents or rounds to zero.

According to the report, the highest addition that impacted the SPM rate was, by far, social security, while the greatest subtraction was Medical Out-of-Pocket (MOOP) expenses. So without taking social security into account, an estimated 26.6 million additional people would be below the poverty line, and without factoring in MOOP expenses, about 11.2 million people would not be below the poverty line lowering the SPM rate by 3.5 percent.

Other additions the SPM takes into account (in order from having the greatest to least impact) are refundable tax credits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), housing subsidies, child support received, school lunch, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)/general assistance, unemployment insurance, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), workers’ compensation and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The other subtractions (in order from adding the most people to the least amount of people in the measure) are work expenses, Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, federal income tax and child support paid.

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