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Median income

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Title: Median income  
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Median income

The median household income is commonly used to generate data about geographic areas and divides households into two equal segments with the first half of households earning less than the median household income and the other half earning more.[1] The median income is considered by many statisticians to be a better indicator than the average household income as it is not dramatically affected by unusually high or low values."[2] The U.S. Census Bureau uses the following definitions of median and mean income:


Household income is not to be confused with family or personal income. Household income is often the combination of two income earners pooling the resources and should therefore not be confused with an individual's earnings. Even though the term family income may sometimes be used as a synonym for household income, the U.S. Census Bureau defines the two differently. While household income takes all households into account, family income only takes households with two or more persons related through blood, marriage or adoption into account.

International statistics

The annual median equivalised disposable household income for selected countries is shown in the table below. This is what each equivalent adult in a household in the middle of the income distribution earns in a year.

Data are in United States dollars at current prices and purchasing power parity for private consumption for the reference year. Data is from OECD statistics.

Rank Country Median income (US$, PPP) Median income (US$, nominal) Year[3]
1  Luxembourg 36,399 47,936 2010
2  Norway 32,405 52,575 2010
3   Switzerland 30,624 47,237 2009
4  United States 29,056 29,056 2010
5  Canada 27,721 34,929 2010
6  Austria 27,612 31,357 2010
7  Australia 27,015 38,570 2010
8  Denmark 26,079 39,742 2010
9  Netherlands 24,938 29,155 2010
10  Belgium 24,362 29,221 2010
11  Sweden 24,278 31,878 2010
12  Germany 24,152 27,213 2010
13  Finland 23,711 31,482 2010
14  France 23,289 27,835 2010
15  Iceland 23,245 27,748 2010
16  United Kingdom 23,182 25,237 2010
17  South Korea 22,597 18,035 2011
18  Ireland 21,489 30,287 2009
19  New Zealand 21,403 21,462 2009
20  Italy 21,104 23,451 2010
21  Japan 19,564 26,671 2009
22  Slovenia 19,160 17,971 2010
23  Spain 17,705 18,531 2010
24  Israel 15,617 18,125 2010
25  Greece 15,322 15,823 2010
26  Czech Republic 13,608 11,091 2010
27  Portugal 13,092 12,400 2010
28  Slovakia 12,696 9,758 2010
29  Poland 11,782 7,785 2010
30  Estonia 9,987 8,224 2010
31  Russia 9,383 5,690 2008
32  Hungary 9,007 6,374 2009
33  Chile 8,466 6,618 2011
34  Turkey 6,772 4,835 2009
35  Mexico 4,456 3,086 2010

Median household income and the US economy

Since 1980, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has increased 67%,[5] while median household income has only increased by 15%. An economic recession will normally cause household incomes to decrease, often by as much as 10% (Figure 1).

Median household income is a politically sensitive indicator. Voters can be critical of their government if they perceive that their cost of living is rising faster than their income. Figure 1 shows how American incomes have changed since 1970. The last recession was the early 2000s recession and was started with the bursting of the dot-com bubble. It affected most advanced economies including the European Union, Japan and the United States.

The current crisis began with the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which caused a problem in the dangerously exposed sub prime-mortgage market. This in turn has triggered a global financial crisis. In constant price, 2011 American median household income is 1.13% lower than what it was in 1989. This corresponds to a 0.05% annual decrease over a 22-year period.[6] In the mean time, GDP per capita has increased by 33.8% or 1.33% annually.[7]

A comparison between Median Equivalised Household Income and GDP per Capita in USD for select developed countries is shown in the chart below.[8][9]

See also


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