WASHINGTON — U.S. household incomes rose strongly for the second straight year in 2016, as the long-running economic recovery generated broad gains in prosperity.
The median household income was $59,039 in 2016, an increase of 3.2 percent after adjusting for inflation, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. The share of Americans living in poverty declined; the share with full-year health insurance increased.
The strong gains are likely to sharpen the political debate between President Donald Trump, who is pressing to overhaul the nation’s economic policies, and Democrats who now have more ammunition to argue that such changes would mess with success.
The most immediate battleground: Trump’s push for large tax cuts.
“The challenge for policymakers now is to build on the last few years’ progress and not worsen poverty and inequality,” said Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. He said many of the items on Trump’s agenda “would raise poverty, widen inequality, or reduce health insurance coverage.”
The data paint a picture of widespread improvement in the final years of the Obama administration. The gains in 2015 were the largest on record. Median household income increased by 5.2 percent, the largest jump since record keeping began in 1967.
The gains in 2016 pushed median household income to the highest level on record, but officials cautioned the figure was affected by a change in methodology in 2013, and thus actual incomes probably have not exceeded the previous peak in 1999.
The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization based…
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