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Income Was Stagnant Way Before The Recession Started

There's at least one thing we can't pin on the recession: The stagnation of income for Americans in the middle of the pack.

The Census Bureau's annual report on poverty and income in America is due to be released Thursday morning. It's likely to find that median household income was flat or down a little last year, the NYT's Economix blog notes.

Update: The median household income in 2009 was $49,777, which was pretty much flat compared to the previous year.

Median household income
Planet Money/Census Bureau data

As it happens, median household income has basically been flat for more than a decade — even during the boom, it wiggled around a little from year to year without going anywhere:

It's not entirely clear why household income should have remained stagnant during all those years when the U.S. economy was growing and top earners were seeing their incomes rise.

Earlier this summer, the FT laid out three of the leading theories (emphasis added):

The rise of China, India, Brazil and others has undercut wages in the west and put America’s unskilled, semi-skilled and even skilled workers out of jobs.

... the explosion of new technology, which has enabled the most routine and easily automated jobs to be replaced by computers. Think of the office assistant, who once took dictation and brewed the coffee. She is now a ­BlackBerry ...

... the conservative backlash which began when Ronald Reagan came to power in 1980, and which sped up the decline of unions and reversed the most progressive features of the US tax system.

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