• State’s median income still declining
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     | September 27,2013
     

    MONTPELIER ó Recent U.S. Census Bureau figures show Vermontís median income continues to decline. ††

    In fact, when inflation is factored in, Vermontersí are earning less in real dollars than they were a decade ago.

    According to this monthís census data, the 2012 median income in Vermont was $52,977, which means half of Vermontís household earned above that figure and half below.†

    When inflation is factored in, the Census Bureau says Vermontersí earnings have actually declined Ė and while the recession has been a factor, the trend was underway even before that.

    The decline in the past 12 years is about 1.6 percent.

    ďFor low and middle income Vermonters, theyíre essentially being pushed back in two ways,Ē says †Paul Cillo, executive director of the Public Assets Institute.

    ďOne is that their incomes arenít keeping place for inflation, and the other is that their costs for essentials are going up faster than inflation: things like food and fuel, health care, college education.Ē

    Vermont is not alone.† All but a handful of states have experienced a drop in median household income in the past decade.†

    Cillo says there are many reasons for the trend including more efficient technology leading to fewer jobs, a decline in union jobs, and an exodus of higher-paying manufacturing jobs overseas.

    Middlebury College economics professor Peter Matthews says while recent data indicates the decline may be at an end thereís nothing to indicate median incomes will rebound in the near term.†

    Matthews says compared to many other states Vermontís decline has been relatively modest.

    One reason may be the stateís low unemployment rate, which means a greater likelihood that a Vermont household has more than one wage earner.

    ďUnlike much of the country, I donít think that number has moved all that much during the most recent downturn, so a Vermont household is more likely to have multiple earners in it,Ēhe says.

    Matthews says households still feel the pinch as costs rise and he says the gap between median and average income is widening, as income disparity grows in Vermont and elsewhere.

    ďItís possible to talk about a median Vermont or American household whose situation hasnít changed very much at the same time as we acknowledge that thereís been enough overall income growth for the most prosperous or affluent among us to experience very substantial real income growth over the same period,Ē Matthews says.

    Matthews and Cillo say while the factors contributing to the stagnation of median incomes are national or even global, there are steps states can take to moderate costs in area like health care costs and tax policy and efforts to attract higher paying jobs.

    @Tagline:news@timesargus.com

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