Why does it matter?
Economic vitality is not exclusively dependent on corporate or industrial success. Data on household income provides insight into the availability of resources and opportunities to residents, as well as the general wealth of our region. In particular, when we measure income by age, we can see the distribution of wealth across generations as well as the age-income differentials.
Where are we now?
In 2021, household incomes were at their highest. Both the mean and median household income estimates increased significantly from 2020 values. The mean household income is higher than the median, meaning there are probably more households with incomes below the average than there are above them. The mean income per capita appears to be low when compared to the household mean. This could be attributed to the large percentage of households being married couple family households—meaning they likely share joint incomes.
When analyzing income distributions by age, several trends are present. First, from 2015 to 2021, incomes increased—though some age groups experienced more fluctuation than others. Given various factors and the value of the dollar, we expect income to grow over this period. Second, age is positively associated with earnings – meaning as one gets older, they are expected to earn more money than when they were younger.
Most workers gain experience or even tenure as they age in their profession. This assumption between age and income holds until the retirement age, when workers leave the labor force and tend to experience a drop in income. This is evident for our region, as each age group yields a higher income than the last, until the 65 and over age group.
How do we measure it?
The household income section compares the mean and median annual incomes for all households. In contrast, per capita income is the mean income per individual, rather than the collective household income. Income by age measures median income by year and age.
- Income levels: “ACS Table S1901,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
- Income by age: “ACS Table B19049,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
What is the call to action?
Most people earn income through working. So expanding employment to a broader segment of our community is one way to increase incomes. This may include individuals often overlooked or excluded from employment opportunities, including people with disabilities, people with criminal records and young people.
Beyond expanding the number of jobs, increasing the quality of the jobs available is another avenue for raising incomes. Attracting and growing higher paying industries, like technology, health care, and finance within our region can raise incomes. Additionally, ensuring a tight labor market, where unemployment is very low through a dynamic, growing economy, could raise wages.