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U.S. Median Household Income Drops in 2020

The economic impacts of the pandemic took a significant toll on the financial stability of American households last year.

U.S. median household income fell 2.9% to $67,500 between 2019 and 2020, according to new data from the Census Bureau. The decrease reflects the first such decline since the Great Recession in 2011, reported CBS News (Sept 14).

Economic challenges were further underscored by a decline in full-time workers. The number of people with full-time jobs decreased by 13.7 million in 2020, representing the biggest drop since the Census started tracking this data 44 years ago.

Food Insecurity

Additionally, the 2020 USDA report on household food security showed 10.5%, or 13.8 million, U.S households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members at some point during the year. While that percentage remained unchanged from 2019, it was largely due to pandemic related government aid.

Among the food insecure households, 16.4% of respondents tracked over a 30-day period had a reference person who was unable to work because of COVID-19. Another 20.4% of respondents were prevented from looking for work because of the pandemic.

Furthermore, about 55% of food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs — SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program — over the same time 30-day period.

According to one measure tracked by the Census, the number of people living in poverty actually declined after taking into account all forms of government aid.

However, without the government assistance, economists said it is likely that poverty would have risen sharply.

Food Inflation Persists

While government assistance helped households maintain economic stability over the past year, many federal programs expired over Labor Day and the likelihood of additional stimulus benefits is low.

As CBS news reported, the absence of this aid coupled with ongoing employment challenges suggest significant struggles ahead for some households.

Furthermore, food prices continue to rise across the board. The Kroger Co. recently joined a growing roster of food companies including Mondelez, General Mills and Costco that are passing along higher prices to consumers.

Kroger CFO Gary Millerchip cited inflationary pressures and higher supply-chain costs as key contributors to the price hikes.