Household Income Distribution

Household Income Distribution In The U.S. Visualized As 100 Homes

Inequality in America has become a major talking point in recent years. For many people though, the concept of inequality – the idea that wealth is spread very thinly at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder – is still an abstract concept.

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There are over 125 million households in the United States, each with their own unique structure and financial situation, so understanding such a complex issue requires reducing it to proportions we can understand.

Household Income Distribution

American Households as a Neighborhood

In the visualization above, American households are distilled down into 100 homes, then color-coded into $25,000 income increments.

One house is allocated for those making $300,000 and more per year. On the other end of the scale, we can see that 24 of the households earn $25,000 per year or less, and nearly half of the households have an annual income lower than $50,000.

Here is a more granular breakdown of numbers, this time from a slightly different data source (U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Household Income Survey):

Income BracketHouseholds (Millions)Share of Total
Less than $15,00014.111.2%
$15,000 – $24,99912.19.6%
$25,000 – $34,99911.99.4%
$35,000 – $49,99916.312.9%
$50,000 – $74,99921.517.0%
$75,000 – $99,99915.512.3%
$100,000 – $149,99917.814.1%
$150,000 – $199,9998.36.6%
$200,000 and up8.87.0%

Households between $35,000 and $100,000 are generally considered middle class. That said, the geographical location of where a household is located also makes a big difference.

The Power of Place

Not surprisingly, cost of living strongly influences your household’s place on the income spectrum.

In El Paso, Texas, a $50,000 income places a household of four people in the middle class. However, in a more expensive metro area, like San Diego, that same income lands your household in a lower income tier. Here’s a closer look at the cost of typical expenses in the two metros:

ExpenseEl Paso, TXSan Diego, CACost difference
Home price$239,285.67$755,273.67⬆︎ 216%
Apartment rent$945.92$1,961.55⬆︎ 107%
Energy cost$133.53$213.96⬆︎ 60%
Dentist visit$89.08$104.25⬆︎ 17%
Coffee$4.47$5.39⬆︎ 20%
Hamburger$3.56$4.35⬆︎ 22%
Gasoline$2.31$3.31⬆︎ 44%

Source: Bankrate.com

Mixed Messages

The median household income in the U.S. continues setting new monthly records, and we’ve just seen this decade’s largest year-over-year increase in individual wages.

One side effect of this economic growth is that households in the top wage bracket – the well-appointed yellow square in our visualization – have a tendency to reap outsized rewards. So, for now, as America’s economy trends upward, so does its Gini Coefficient.

Article by Visual Capitalist

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