Real Income Is The Purchasing Power Of Nominal Money Income

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Purchasing power is the value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing power is important because, all else being equal.


Source:U.S. Census Bureau

Release:Income and Poverty in the United States

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Household data are collected as of March.
As stated in the Census's Source and Accuracy of Estimates for Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011.
Estimation of Median Incomes. The Census Bureau has changed the methodology for computing median income over time. The Census Bureau has computed medians using either Pareto interpolation or linear interpolation. Currently, we are using linear interpolation to estimate all medians. Pareto interpolation assumes a decreasing density of population within an income interval, whereas linear interpolation assumes a constant density of population within an income interval. The Census Bureau calculated estimates of median income and associated standard errors for 1979 through 1987 using Pareto interpolation if the estimate was larger than $20,000 for people or $40,000 for families and households. This is because the width of the income interval containing the estimate is greater than $2,500.
We calculated estimates of median income and associated standard errors for 1976, 1977, and 1978 using Pareto interpolation if the estimate was larger than $12,000 for people or $18,000 for families and households. This is because the width of the income interval containing the estimate is greater than $1,000. All other estimates of median income and associated standard errors for 1976 through 2011 (2012 ASEC) and almost all of the estimates of median income and associated standard errors for 1975 and earlier were calculated using linear interpolation.
Thus, use caution when comparing median incomes above $12,000 for people or $18,000 for families and households for different years. Median incomes below those levels are more comparable from year to year since they have always been calculated using linear interpolation. For an indication of the comparability of medians calculated using Pareto interpolation with medians calculated using linear interpolation, see Series P-60, Number 114, Money Income in 1976 of Families and Persons in the United States.

Suggested Citation:

U.S. Census Bureau, Real Median Household Income in the United States [MEHOINUSA672N], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N, August 1, 2021.

Income and Poverty in the United States

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What Is Real Income And Nominal Income

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NominalPersonal income is the income that is received by persons from all sources. It is calculated as the sum of wage and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, proprietors' income with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments, rental income of persons with capital consumption adjustment, personal dividend income, personal interest income, and personal current tranfer receipts, less contributions for government social insurance. This measure of income is calculated as the personal income of the residents of a given area divided by the resident population of the area. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses the Census Bureau's annual midyear population estimates.