The Average American: 1967 And Today

Fascinating data points in a Forbes magazine looking at "Mr. And Mrs. Median over the decades."

Median Income (Men)*

1965 $28,599
1975 $33,148
1995 $39,186
2005 $41,386

* All figures in 2005 inflation-adjusted dollars, except where noted.
Source: Census Bureau


Median Income (Women)

1965 $9,533 (33% of men)
1975 $12,697 (38% of
1985 $27,720 (65% of men)
1995 $27,990 (71% of
2005 $31.858 (77% of men)

Source:Census Bureau


Income Share of Middle 60% of Wage Earners

1965 52.3%
1975 52.1%
1985 50.4%
2005 46.2%

Source:Census Bureau


Household Net Worth

1965 $254,740
1975 $268,234
1995 $345,321
2005 $465,970

Source: Moody’s


Personal Savings Rate

1965 8.5%
1975 10.5%
1985 11%
2005 -0.4%

Source:Commerce Department


Misery Index (Inflation Plus Unemployment)

1965 6.1%
1975 17.7%
1985 10.7%
2005 8.5%



Top Federal Tax Rate

1965 70%
1975 70%
1985 31%
2005 35%


Changes in Purchasing Power

1975 10 years: -1.3%
1985 10 years: 0.1% 20
years: -1.2%
1995 10 years: 1.8% 20 years: 1.9% 30 years:
2005 10 years: 5.7% 20 years: 8.0% 30 year: 7.5% 40 years:

Sources:Census Bureau,


Home Ownership Percentage

1965 63%
1975 68%
1985 64%
2005 69%

Source: St. Louis Fed


Productivity Increases Since 1965

1965 (baseline)
1975 +24%
1985 +42%
2005 +220%

Sources: Moody’s


Percentage of Women in Workforce

1965 34%
1975 39%
1985 44%
2005 46%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Compensation of CEO of largest U.S. Corporation vs. Median Household

In actual dollars for each year

1965 Frederick Donner/General Motors 3.9 million (med. household
income = 0.2%)
1975 Ken Jamieson/Exxon $469,550 (med. household income
= 3%)
1985 Clifton Garvin/Exxon $1.5 million (med. household income =
1995 John Smith/General Motors $7 million (med. household income =
2005 Lee Scott/Wal-Mart $19 million (med. household income =

Sources: Census Bureau, General Motors, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart


Compensation of highly paid athlete vs. Median Household

In actual dollars for each year

1965 Joe Namath/football $142,333 (med. household income =
1975 Pele/soccer $1.5 million (median household income =
1985 Mike Schmidt/baseball $2.1 million (median household income
= 1.1%)
1995 Michael Jordan/basketball $40 million (median household
income = 0.1%)
2005 Tiger Woods/golf $87 million (median household
income = 0.1%)

Sources: Forbes

The Average American: 1967 And Today

Tom Van Riper,
Forbes10.17.06, 6:00 AM ET

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. brion commented on Oct 18

    Pretty astonishing “productivity” gains from ’95 (up 65%) to 2005 when we turned into Robbie the Freaking Robot at 220%. Easily the freakiest # in the list and mostly attributable to the rise of the Internets yes?

  2. sport commented on Oct 18

    Battaglia went bullish, I believe he is Barry’s contrary indicator. He has been bearish on the way up.

  3. Robert Coté commented on Oct 18

    At first I thought the Top Federal Income Tax rate was by far the least useful. “Taxes” are not what the Federal govt collects on income but but all levels of govt spend and encumber. I was wrong. CEO compensation as listed is such a joke. there are CEOs with higher retirement compensation than those listed. Think Robert Toll last year and Mozillo this year and tell me Lee Scott/Wal-Mart at $19 million is representative of CEO compensation.

  4. Tancred D’Hautville commented on Oct 18

    Purchasing Power: “2005 10 years: 5.7% 20 years: 8.0% 30 year: 7.5% 40 years: 6.2%”

    Hmmmm … rather interesting figures, considering the US dollar has lost over 80% of its value over the past 30 years or so. Who knew?

  5. Hans commented on Oct 18

    One thing this article fails to highlight are the financial consquences of a disparity between increase in salary vs. incrase in real estate. It’s all rosy when one owns a property and they cheer that statistic. When it comes to purchasing a home this is probably the biggest source of unhappiness. Take a look at any larger metropolitan area these days. The required median income to afford the median home is ridiculously high. In LA metro area it might be close to 2x.

  6. muckdog commented on Oct 18

    Interesting info, BR. It smooths out some of the wrinkles of booms and busts while showing an uptrend in the affluence of Americans. Which is a good thing, Martha.

    The declining savings rate… It doesn’t represent capital gains, does it? I’m thinking outloud here with no charts or stats, but I wonder if as the baby boomers age and retire if they’re actually saving less because they’ve accumulated enough assets to retire?

    The other boom coming is from those who haven’t saved enough but own their homes. They’ll tap that equity via reverse mortgages. Assuming there is any equity left after the housing bust is done, of course…

  7. Leisa commented on Oct 18

    That household net worth seems a tad high for an average.

  8. Jim commented on Oct 18

    Is the household net worth the average or median?

    Looks like an average (me and Bill Gates are ,on average, very rich).


  9. Leisa commented on Oct 18

    I see that it’s stating median. Cannot comprehend on Wednesdays.

  10. OkieLawyer commented on Oct 18

    What is the significance of CEO pay vs. median household income?

  11. George commented on Oct 19

    What is the significance of CEO pay vs. median household income?

    Think of it as how equitable society is. Or how stratified. As was mentioned above, I question how representative the CEO comps from one company are. And are those total compensation?

  12. teddy commented on Oct 19

    Mark Twain said there was 3 kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. Concerning the above stats, median income after INFLATION, income share of the middle 60% of wage earners, and productivity growth seem to completely contradict earlier posts of stats presented here by Barry and which raised the concern of some Fed officials and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker in separate reviews. Barry can you please wade thru all this horsebleep and try to create some order out of this chaos?

  13. Trends I’m Watching commented on Oct 19

    Trends and the Average American

    Trends: Some signficant changes: the top federal tax rate in 1975 was 70%; in 2005, it was 35%. The personal savings rate was 10.5% in 1975; in 2005, it was -0.4%. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture provides some data points from a Forbes magazine artic…

  14. RDR commented on Oct 19

    Clearly the most important correlation is that between 1965 and 2005 the percentage of women in the workforce rose from 34% to 46%; this 12% increase was accompanied by a 220% increase in productivity. Therefore we should strive to increase the percentage of women to 100% of the workforce as this would lead to a huge increase in productivity. “Truthiness” in economics. By my calculation, if a 12% increase in the percentage of women in the workforce (from 34% to 46%)leads to a 220% increase in productivity, then increasing women to 100% of the workforce will lead to a 990% increase in productivity. And with all the men at home, beer sales will rise exponentially.

  15. DavidB commented on Oct 19

    LOL! RDR

    You ever think about becoming and economist?

  16. DavidB commented on Oct 19

    so 30 years of all the money, screaming and fighting spent on the women’s lib movement was worth a 12 point bump?

    Seems a waste

  17. Lord commented on Oct 19

    More offshored manufacturing than the internet, I think.

    Most notably, the good data in this may be due mostly to the ageing of the workforce rather than anything they themselves have accomplished. That certainly explains the higher home ownership and greater wealth. That trend should run out of steam shortly although the population as a whole will continue to age.

  18. Paul commented on Apr 7

    Does anyone know the net worth threshold amount to be into the top 1% of Americans? Net worth, not income, of all assets. This is a hard statistics to come by. Provide source.

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