Median income for US households was flat in 2021 when adjusted for inflation, Census Bureau reports

The average American income was essentially flat last year at $70,784,  the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday.  

The inflation-adjusted median U.S. household income fell 0.6% from the 2020 estimate of $71,186 but the change was deemed "not statistically different" by the Census Bureau. 

Income estimates are expressed in 2021 dollars to reflect changes in the cost of living due to inflation. Between 2020 and 2021, inflation rose 4.7%, the largest annual increase in the cost-of-living adjustment since 1990. 

Nine months into 2022, inflation is still a major concern for many Americans. Overall prices in August increased 8.3% from a year earlier, the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index reported Tuesday, a slight drop from 8.5% in July.

What was the US median household income in 2021? 

The 2021 income report follows a 2.9% drop in 2020, the first significant decline since 2011.

When breaking down the 2021 median incomes by region, the figure was highest in the West and Northeast ($79,430 and $77,472, respectively) followed by the Midwest ($71,129) and South ($63,368).

Asian households had the highest median income last year at $101,418, followed by non-Hispanic white households ($77,999) and Hispanic households ($57,981). Black households had the lowest median income at $48,297.

Household income includes bonuses, Social Security, public assistance payments and interest and dividend from investments, among other sources.

What was the poverty rate in 2021?

The poverty rate was 11.6% in 2021, affecting 37.9 million people.

That figure was also essentially unchanged from 2020, when the official poverty rate rose for the first time in six years. 

The supplemental poverty measure, a broader measure of poverty that includes both cash and noncash benefits and subtracts necessary expenses, fell 1.4 percentage points from 2020 to 7.8%. That is its lowest rate since the estimate was first published in 2009.

The SPM rate for children was 5.2%, down 46% from 2020 and the lowest SPM child poverty rate on record.

The Census Bureau says Social Security continues to be "the most important" antipoverty program, moving 26.3 million people out of SPM poverty.

Refundable tax credits, including the child tax credit, kept 9.6 million people out of poverty while stimulus payments moved 8.9 million people out of poverty, the agency said.  

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How many Americans had health insurance in 2021? 

The number of people with health insurance coverage for at least some of calendar year 2021 went up 0.4 percentage points to 91.7%. This comes after a dip in 2020, when millions of workers lost their jobs and health insurance.

Private health insurance continued to be more popular than public plans, covering 66% of Americans compared to 35.7%, respectively, because some people may have had more than one coverage type in 2021. 

The most common subtype was employer-based insurance, which covered more than half of the population last year.

Over 27 million people were uninsured throughout 2021. 

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How many people were working in 2021?

While the number of total workers remained unchanged between 2020 and 2021, the number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 11.1 million, likely due to people shifting from part-time or part-year work in 2020 to full-time, year-round work in 2021. 

Median earnings of workers (including part-time workers) rose 4.6% to $45,470, while the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers fell 4.1% to $56,473.  

The female-to-male earnings ratio was 83.7% in 2021, meaning women earned about 84% as much as their male counterparts. This figure was not statistically different from 2020.

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