The Washington Post began a series that will look at why America’s middle class is shrinking this week. With it they have put together an important data tool for the public and policymakers to begin to delve into the dynamics affecting the country’s middle class. The interactive map provides county level data over time of median household income, a measure what the household in the very middle of the distribution earns and a key indicator in assessing the well-being of household’s in a community that is often overlooked.
Analysis of median household income over time and places is not just important for individual household well-being but can also provide important insights into the health of the broader economy. Equity in economic indicators is increasingly found to be associated with stronger and longer periods of growth. These are positive outcomes to pursue in a recovery that has been modest and slow.
Nationally, the big take-away is that median household income peaked 15 years ago for more than 80 percent of counties. The data for North Carolina show a few interesting things:
- Four counties, Hertford, Washington, Richmond and Scotland counties, saw their median household income peak in 1979
- Rockingham, Rutherford and Cleveland counties saw their median household income peak in 1989
- The majority of counties saw their median household income peak in 1999