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Q: Average income in America ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Average income in America
Category: Business and Money > Economics
Asked by: tonyrush-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 28 Sep 2006 09:35 PDT
Expires: 28 Oct 2006 09:35 PDT
Question ID: 769229
What is the average income in America for the most recent year for
which data is available?  Also, if you could, please make a
distinction between "median" incomes and "average" incomes.  Thank
Subject: Re: Average income in America
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 28 Sep 2006 10:01 PDT

Your question is trickier than you might suppose, since income
statistics are generally given as median figures, rather than as mean
(average) figures.

What's more, they tend to be presented as income by household, rather
than by individual income.

However, with a bit of digging, it's possible to tease out what you're
after...average income numbers per person in the US.

The Census Bureau is the main source of up-to-date statistics on
income, and their most recent release of the 2005 data (made public
just last month, in August 2006), can be seen here:
Selected Characteristics of People 15 Years and Over by Total Money
Income in 2005, Work Experience in 2005, Race, Hispanic Origin, and
[Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2006 Annual
Social and Economic Supplement

This table is chock full of different ways of slicing and dicing the
income statistics by age, race, gender, income level, etc, but
slightly more than half-way down in the document, you'll find these
data for "All People":

Median income --  $24,325       

Mean income   --  $35,499 

Those are the data you're looking for.

The "Mean Income" is the straightforward average...add everyone's
income, and divide by the numer of people.  The average income in the
US (for people 15 and over) is $35,499.

The "Median Income" is the midpoint of all incomes.  If you listed out
everyone's income in rank order, there would be an equal numer of
incomes listed above and below the median income of $24,325.

You can read a bit more about means and medians here:

I trust this information is exactly what you needed, but if there's
anything else I can do for you, just let me know, and I'm at your


search strategy -- Used bookmarked site for Census data.
Subject: Re: Average income in America
From: tr1234-ga on 28 Sep 2006 10:41 PDT
Just to add a little note about means and medians to pafalafa's
excellent answer. It's very easy to calculate a mean and a median for
a set of data, but it's not as often specified why one figure might be
better than the other. This is more or less covered in the factmonster
link provided, but it's such a basic point that I figure it's worth

Meidas, unlike means, are less influenced by excessively high or low
data points. For many situations, then, medians are generally thought
to be more representative of typical situations. Many times, when you
see the word "median", if you replace it in your mind with "typical",
then that usually can keep your thinking straight.

A classic example to show what we're talking about would be something like this:

Let's look at the salaries of 10 high school students a year after
they graduate. Let's say 8 of them go on to college and don't take
jobs so their salaries are zero. Let's say one takes an entry level
job somewhere and makes $30,000/yr. And lets say that the last one
turns out to be a sports prodigy and is signed to a professional
contract that earns her 2 million dollars in the first year.

The mean salary for these ten people would be $203,000/year
The median salary for these ten people would be $0.00/year

Obviously, neither figure gives a very good picture of the situation,
but the median figure is far closer to what is typical for that
particular group.

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