Median Household Income Is at an All-Time High. Are You Happy Yet?

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Here's some really good news: Median household income in the United States is at a record-high, inflation-adjusted $61,372. When you factor in that today's households contain fewer people, the news is even better. In 1975, for instance, average income per person per household was just $19,500. Now it's $34,000 (all figures in 2017 dollars). And get a load of this: Since the 1990s, there is no evidence that income inequality is growing or the ability to move up and down the income ladder is shrinking. More people than ever live in households pulling down $100,000 (again, adjusted for inflation) than ever. Fewer households make less than $35,000 (adjusted for inflation). All of this comes courtesy of U.S. Census that's compiled and analyzed by economist Mark J. Perry, who works at the American Enterprise Institute and University of Michigan (Flint), and runs the Carpe Diem blog. Do you feel happy yet? On today's Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Perry both about his findings and why we don't feel richer, happier, or more secure than we do. Perry isn't a Trump booster by any means, but he suggests that some of the president's policies—particularly the tax cuts and deregulatory moves in many parts of the economy—are helping to keep an economic expansion that started under President Obama moving along. At the same time, he worries over accumulating debt and trade wars that can raise prices and, more important, introduce wild uncertainty into the economy. When investors "see that there's uncertainty about policy that starts to distort decision making and capital spending." Perry suggests one reason we don't feel more satisfied with economic improvements is that they are a feature and not a bug of a free enterprise system. "The benefits of a market economy and the march of progress are so constant and so gradual that either we don't appreciate it or don't notice it," he says. "So we have an under-appreciation of how much better things get all the time. If it happened all at once, we'd probably just be amazed." Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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