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Noah Smith

Americans Are Getting Bigger Paychecks

By one measure, incomes have surpassed their pre-recession peak. The poor have gained the most.
More for everybody.
Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau delivered some good news. Finally, after years of what seemed like a sluggish and uncertain recovery, American incomes were rising strongly again. Median household income jumped by more than 5 percent in 2015, and the lion’s share of the gains went to middle-class and lower-income folks. Employment rose strongly, and poverty fell faster than it had in any year since the 1960s. The gains were felt in both cities and rural areas.

What’s more, every age group had gains. Overall income statistics are muddled by the aging of the population. As economist Robert Shapiro has shown, the years from 2013 onward have lifted the incomes of boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials at rates that compare favorably to anything seen since 1980: