Mostly False
"During eight years under Ronald Reagan, African-American median income rose by about $5,000."

Ted Cruz on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 in a town hall in Henniker, N.H.

Ted Cruz off on claim that median African-American income rose $5,000 under Reagan

Ted Cruz greets voters at a town hall in Henniker, N.H. (Louis Jacobson)

CORRECTION, Feb. 4, 2016: After we published this fact-check, a reader wrote us to say that in our original article, we had used the wrong Census Bureau data table to analyze Cruz’s statement and rate it Mostly True. However, using the proper data table, Cruz is actually incorrect, so we have changed the rating to Mostly False. The original article is archived here.

During a town hall event at New England College in Henniker, N.H., Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz faced a questioner who asked what he would do for "struggling minorities."

Cruz said the key is economic growth, underpinned by a vigorous free-enterprise system. He suggested that his father -- who worked as a dishwasher shortly after emigrating from Cuba to the United States -- would have lost his job if politicians at the time had raised the minimum wage as high as today’s Democrats would like.

Cruz pointed to the Reagan years as a golden age for African-American economic advancement.

"During eight years under Ronald Reagan," Cruz said, "African-American median income rose by about $5,000. That is real and meaningful transformation."

We should note that Cruz was describing the Reagan years as a time of economic growth, not crediting Reagan for a specific policy. So we’ll simply look to see how wages performed.

We turned to median income data collected annually by the U.S. Census Bureau. All figures below have been adjusted for inflation.






Median income, 1980




Median income, 1988




Gain in dollars


+ $2,107

+ $1,809

Gain in percent

+ 8 percent

+ 7 percent

+ 5 percent

So Cruz is wrong -- the gain in median income for African-Americans under Reagan was a little over $2,000, not $5,000, and the increase was smaller on both a dollar basis and a percentage basis than the increase for whites.

It’s also worth noting that Reagan wasn’t the best president for African-American median income in recent history. That crown goes to Bill Clinton -- unlike Reagan, a Democratic president.

Between 1992 and 2000, black incomes rose from $31,018 to $40,783 -- a gain of $9,765 and a striking 31 percent increase.

Our ruling

Cruz said that "during eight years under Ronald Reagan, African-American median income rose by about $5,000."

The actual increase was a little over $2,000, and the increase was significantly larger under a subsequent Democratic president, Bill Clinton. We rate Cruz’s statement Mostly False.