WASHINGTON -- Reflecting the current economic boom, median household incomes have shot up four years in a row, and in 1998, the United States had the highest income levels ever recorded, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, it said, the number of people living below the poverty level dropped to 12.7 percent in 1998, down from 13.3 percent in 1997.
Children living in poverty decreased from 19.9 percent in 1997 to 18.9 in 1998 -- the first time that the children's poverty rate has been statistically below 20 percent since 1980, the government's data collection agency said in a new report.
"For the first time since 1975, all four regions of the country experienced significant increases (in real median household income between 1997 and 1998)," said Daniel Weinberg, chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division.
Nationally, between 1997 and 1998, the median income level for the nation's households rose 3.5 percent, from $37,581 to a new high of $38,885. Alaska had the highest median household income in 1998 -- $49,717, followed by New Jersey, $49,297, Maryland, $48,714, Washington State, $46,339 and Connecticut, $45,589.
From 1997 to 1998, Washington's median household income grew the most--by 11.2 percent, followed by New Mexico, 9.7 percent, Oklahoma, 8.7 percent and Vermont, 8.3 percent.
The poverty rate for the United States dropped to 12.7 percent in 1998, down from 13.3 percent in 1997. The number of poor dropped significantly also, to 34.5 million people, down from 35.6 million people in 1997. The South's poverty rate, historically the region with the highest poverty rate, declined to a new record low of 13.7 percent in 1998, down from 14.6 percent in 1997. The number of poor in the South declined to 13.0 million in 1998, down from 13.7 million in 1997.
In three states, the poverty rate changed significantly between 1997 and 1998. It dropped 2.6 percent in New Mexico and 1.7 percent in Virginia, while North Dakota showed an increase of 2.1 percent.
The Census data are from the March 1999 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), a sample survey of approximately 50,000 households nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 1998, and were made public on Thursday (September 30, 1999).