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Figures show Americans are the richest they've been since 2007, big drop in poverty

Household incomes in the U.S. jumped by a record amount in 2015, which also saw the biggest drop in poverty levels recorded since 1999.
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Household incomes in the U.S. jumped by a record amount in 2015, which also saw the biggest drop in poverty levels recorded since 1999.

Census figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday confirmed that for the first time since the economic crisis, median household incomes are almost back to 2007 levels, after a 5.2 percent surge brought average incomes to $56,516.

This is still below the $57,423 (adjusted for inflation) recorded in 2007, and the record of $57,909 in 1999.

Nonetheless, it is still the highest yearly increase since records started being taken in 1968, and crucially for a nation that has struggled with inequality, the highest income growth came amongst poorer Americans, as this chart from a member of the Obama Administration's Council of Economic Advisers shows.

The income growth among poorer Americans has been attributed to a rise in minimum wages, increased employment and more competition for low-wage jobs, Reuters reports.

For middle-class workers, there has been an increase in employment and modest wage growth.

The growth in income also benefited nearly all racial groups as well, with white, black and Hispanic households all seeing their incomes rise when inflation was taken into account, while there was no change in median incomes for Asian households.

Poverty levels dropped by 1.2 percent from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent last year, the biggest drop recorded since 1999, with 43.1 million people living below the poverty line – 3.5 million less than in 2014 and only 1 percent more than in 2007.

Although more details of household incomes in Minnesota will be released on Thursday, one Treasury document does confirm that the state's poverty level is at 9.1 percent, the 2nd lowest in the country – after New Hampshire.

That puts around 492,000 Minnesotans as living below the poverty line.

The figures could have implications for this November's presidential elections, given that median household income is now higher than in 2009 when President Obama took office, but MPR points out that the failure to reach that level until now gave rise to "insurgent" presidential hopefuls like GOP candidate Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

But the latest figures could boost the Democratic case, according to President Obama's statement on Tuesday, as reported by Bloomberg.

"Republicans don’t like to hear good news right now," he said. "But it’s important just to understand this is a big deal. More Americans are working, more have health insurance, incomes are rising, poverty is falling. And gas is $2 a gallon! Thanks, Obama."

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