Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

PolitiFact: Inflation-adjusted family incomes down more that $4,000 over five years

The statement

"The average family (is) now bringing home $4,000 less than they did just five years ago."

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, March 8, in a Republican weekly address

The ruling

Economic stagnation is an issue that has become a major talking point for both parties.

Take President Barack Obama's most recent State of the Union address, in which he said that during the past four years, "average wages have barely budged." We rated that claim True.

Now, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has offered an even more ominous statistic for working Americans.

"The average family," he said in last weekend's weekly Republican address, is "now bringing home $4,000 less than they did just five years ago."

We wondered whether Portman's claim was correct. So we turned to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau collects data on family income, and we found that Portman is correct as long as the dollar amounts are adjusted for inflation. We looked at both the mean family income (that is, total family income divided by the number of families) and the median family income (the middle value when all family incomes are lined up from biggest to smallest).

For the inflation-adjusted mean, family income fell from $87,312 in 2007 to $82,843 in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. That's a drop of $4,469, making Portman correct. In fact, he underestimated a bit.

The difference is even more stark if you use the inflation-adjusted median. By that measure, family income dropped from $67,943 to $62,241 over the same period. That's a drop of $5,702 — an 8.4 percent decline over five years.

So Portman's only shortcoming was to lowball the size of the family income decline.

We should note that choosing 2007 as the starting year maximizes the decline, since the last recession began in December 2007. But we have no quarrel with the use of this period because, when looking at income trends, it seems reasonable to look at how big an impact the recession has had.

We'll also note that Portman wouldn't be correct if noninflation-adjusted figures are used. Without an inflation adjustment, both mean and median family incomes went up from 2007 to 2012 — about 5 percent for mean family income and 1.4 percent for median family income. But economists generally prefer inflation-adjusted data for situations such as this, since the adjusted data take into account the most important aspect of income — what it can actually purchase.

We rate his claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17