Graph source: online version of WSJ article cited below. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113513427028228173.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries
New reports by the Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board on the economic well-being of the typical American family reveal that over the past three decades, the vast majority of families have experienced a rapid growth in their income and wealth. Now that nearly six out of 10 households own stock and two out of three own their own homes, the average family — for the first time ever — has net worth (assets minus liabilities) of more than $100,000. Median family income has climbed to more than $54,000 a year.
Almost no one in the national media has taken notice of this good news, which has been camouflaged by a barrage of misleading and gloomy stories on “stagnant wages,” “the growing income gap between rich and poor,” “the disappearing middle class” and “rising poverty in America.” The reality is that if the economic growth, employment and family-finances numbers get any better, the media will soon have to start calling this the “Clinton economy.”
What the reports tell us is that the vast majority of Americans have not bumped into income glass-ceilings, but rather are experiencing an astonishing pace of upward income mobility. The Census data from 1967 to 2004 provides the percentage of families that fall within various income ranges, starting at $0 to $5,000, $5,000 to $10,000, and so on, up to over $100,000 (all numbers here are adjusted for inflation). These data show, for example, that in 1967 only one in 25 families earned an income of $100,000 or more in real income, whereas now, one in six do. The percentage of families that have an income of more than $75,000 a year has tripled from 9% to 27%.
But it’s not just the rich that are getting richer. Virtually every income group has been lifted by the tide of growth in recent decades. The percentage of families with real incomes between $5,000 and $50,000 has been falling as more families move into higher income categories — the figure has dropped by 19 percentage points since 1967. This huge move out of lower incomes and into middle- and higher-income categories shows that upward mobility is the rule, not the exception, in America today.