Real Median Income – By Presidential Administration

I’ve had a few posts comparing performance of various by presidential administration. This one will look at Real Median income (of people 15 years and older after 1980, 14 and older before that). The graph below shows how real median income changed since Ike became President.

The following table shows the annual percentage growth rate in real median income over each administration.

The interesting thing about this series is the Carter administration… as noted in other posts, the economy itself grew relatively quickly in the Carter administration (relative, that is, to growth in Republican administrations), particularly when accounting for debt. But during his administration, real median income performed worse than under any other administration. I have no idea why, except to assume that the disparity in income must have grown quite a bit. I guess that’s a topic for another post.

Leaving aside Carter, not unexpectedly (given the previous posts in this series) the two top performers were JFK/LBJ and Clinton. The top performing Republican was Reagan (also not unexpectedly given the previous posts in this series), and three out of five Republican administrations saw decreases in real median income.


Administrative Note…

The real (2005) figures I used do not precisely match those on the Census site. 1974 – 2005 Real median income data from Table P-7 uses the CPI – R – US series to convert from nominal to 2005 data. Data from 1947 to 1997 in Table C-2 of Measuring 50 Years of Change has been put into the 1997 base year using the CPI – U – X1 and CPI – U series. Obviously, mixing and matching the two series would lead to error. So I converted the 1947 to 1973 data to nominal (using data provided in Table C-1 of the Measuring 50 Years of Change report, and then used the latest CPI – U to develop real 2005 figures for both series. I can appreciate the folks at the BLS always trying to improve the CPI series, but it took a couple hours just to figure out why the data wasn’t matching up in the years in which the two series overlapped. (After the adjustment, of course, the nominal data in those years does match up.) I note this would all be a lot easier if the Census just went ahead and reported data for longer periods on their Census.


Editorial Comment

I wonder how many of the folks that have insisted, with regards to posts on other series, that lags are the reason for Republicans doing worse than Democrats, are going to be willing to cut Jimmy Carter the same slack here? Perhaps we should assume that what should be attributed to Carter are the four best consecutive years in the Reagan years? And Carter’s dismal performance was due to Nixon? I’m not willing to make that attribution – and my guess is that nobody in the “lags are the explanation” will either.

Which leads me to think… perhaps I should write a post on lags and their effects. Look for that some time soon.


Correction. Originally I had the wrong link to the Census report with data going back to 1947. Apologies.