Changes in Family Income over Time

In 2015, average incomes for all groups except the 20% of families with the lowest incomes equaled or exceeded the incomes of their 2005 counterparts, after adjusting for inflation.

Figure 19A: Percentage Change in Inflation-Adjusted Mean Family Income by Quintile, 1985 to 1995, 1995 to 2005, and 2005 to 2015

Notes & Sources 

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table F-1, Table F-3, Table F-5, and FINC-01; calculations by the authors.

  • Inequality in family incomes increased in each of the three decades from 1985 to 2015. Average income for the middle 20% of families ($58,585) increased from 3.5 times the average income for the lowest 20% ($16,536) in 1985 to 4.1 times as high in 2015. Average income for the highest 20% of families ($149,239) increased from 2.5 times the average income for the middle 20% in 1985 to 3.2 times as high in 2015.