Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers a speech in Columbus, Ohio, during the annual meeting of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce on April 14, 2015. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers a speech in Columbus, Ohio, during the annual meeting of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce on April 14, 2015.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers a speech in Columbus, Ohio, during the annual meeting of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce on April 14, 2015.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson April 16, 2015

Jeb Bush correct that median income has fallen in U.S. since end of recession

Jeb Bush is making economic opportunity a major theme of his not-yet-official presidential campaign. One of his main gripes with the economy is that income isn’t going up.

"If we grew at a far faster rate, the middle would no longer be as squeezed as they are," Bush said. "We are in the sixth year of recovery, and median income is below what it was at the start of the recovery."

Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, made the remarks during a recent visit to Ohio, where he talked with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review political writer Salena Zito before addressing the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. (Zito paraphrased part of Bush’s quote in her article, but she provided us with the full text of Bush’s comment.)

We knew that the national employment picture has improved, slowly but surely, since the official end of the recession in mid 2009. But has the typical household income in the United States really fallen since the end of the recession? If true, that would be pretty startling.

As it turns out, median income has fallen, once you take inflation into account. Here are the details.

In September 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau published its annual roundup of data on income and poverty. Table A-2 in the report provides data on the inflation-adjusted, median household income for the most recent 10 years:

 

Year

Inflation-adjusted, median household income

2009

$54,059

2010

$52,646

2011

$51,842

2012

$51,759

2013

$51,939

 

This shows that, despite a slight uptick between 2012 and 2013, real median household income has fallen since the start of the recovery in 2009 by $2,120. That’s about 4 percent, or roughly 1 percent per year, every year.

The only caveat we should mention is that the most recent data stops at the end of 2013, and we don’t know yet whether income gains accelerated enough in 2014 to make up for the losses between 2009 and 2013. Still, we won’t mark down Bush for this, since he was using the most current data available.

"It's sad but true that real median income is below what it was in 2009 and 2010," said Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist. "Real median income kept dropping well after the official end of the recession and has been pretty close to flat since 2011."

She added that the losses have not been experienced equally. Incomes, Sinclair noted, "have fallen in the lower parts of the income distribution," whereas the the top 10 percent of the income spectrum, and even more elite segments, have experienced gains.

Still, Bush was clearly speaking about the overall national picture, so we find no fault with his claim.

Our ruling

Bush said that "we are in the sixth year of recovery, and median income is below what it was at the start of the recovery."

He’s right, once you take inflation into account and if you use the most recent data available, which goes through 2013. We rate his claim True.

Our Sources

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Call 'Islamic terrorism' what it is: a threat to West, Jeb Bush says," April 14, 2015

U.S. Census Bureau, "Table A-2, Selected Measures of Household Income Dispersion: 1967 to 2013," in "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013," September 2014.

Email interview with Salena Zito, political writer with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 16, 2015

Email interview with Tara Sinclair, George Washington University economist, April 16, 2015

Email interview with Dean Baker, economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 16, 2015

Email interview with Matt Gorman, spokesman for Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise PAC, April 16, 2015

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Jeb Bush correct that median income has fallen in U.S. since end of recession

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