Fox News Falsely Blames Obama For Median Income Decline

A Fox News report dishonestly pegged a decline in median household income to the beginning of President Obama's first term. In fact, median income has trended downward since 1999.

Fox Highlights Decline In Median Income Since 2008

Fox's Earhardt: Three Years Into Obama's Presidency, Median Income “Dropped More Than $2,000.” During a discussion of Obama's second inauguration, Fox & Friends First co-host Heather Nauert said “a lot of folks are now criticizing President Obama for putting social issues before the struggling economy. Some are arguing that the economy is simply not one of the president's priorities.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt then highlighted the drop in median income, framing the drop as beginning during Obama's first term, saying: “If you look back at 2008, the year before the president took office, the median household income, $52,546. Three years into President Obama's presidency, the average for 2011, well it dropped more than $2,000.”

The following graphic was displayed during the segment:

[Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 1/22/13]

But Median Income Has Declined Over The Past Decade, Not Just Since Obama's Presidency

CBPP: Drop In Median Household Income “Continues A Decade-Long Downward Trend.” In a September 17 report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that the recent decline in median household income is part of a decade-long trend. From the report:

Median household income -- the income of the household in the middle of the U.S. income distributed ranked by income -- fell to $50,054 in 2011, down $777 from the year before, after adjusting for inflation.

Particularly for working-age households, median income is largely a function of labor market opportunities, mainly wage rates and hours of work.  In the slowly recovering economy, employment remained fairly flat in 2011 as a share of the working-age population, while the average number of hours worked per week edged up slightly.  Real hourly wages, however, edged down by 1 percent.  For working-age households, those headed by someone younger than 65, median income fell $1,210 in 2011, or 2.1 percent, to $55,640.

Since the recession started in 2007, median income for working-age households has fallen by 9.3 percent, after adjusting for inflation.  This continues a decade-long downward trend.  Median income for this group has declined in eight of the last ten years, falling from $63,517 in 2000 (in 2011 dollars) to $61,336 in 2007 and to $55,640 in 2011, a cumulative loss of 12.4 percent or $7,877 since 2000.


The drop in median household income was tied to a substantial rise in income inequality.   Household incomes fell in the middle and rose at the top, as income gains from the economic recovery were very unevenly shared.  For the 20 percent of households in the middle, average household income fell 1.7 percent, or $876.  For the top 20 percent, average income rose 1.9 percent, or $3,286.  For the top 5 percent of households, average income rose 5.1 percent, or $15,184.

With the gains from economic growth going disproportionately to those at the top of the income scale, the share of the national income that goes to households in the middle and bottom has fallen. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/17/12, emphasis added]

EPI: Median Income Fell More Than 10 Percent From 2000-10. In a September 14, 2011 report, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that median household income has declined over the last decade:

Between 2000 and 2010, median income for working-age households fell from $61,574 to $55,276, a decline of roughly $6,300, which is more than 10 percent. [Economic Policy Institute, 9/14/11]

U.S. Census Bureau: Median Income Has Trended Downward For More Than A Decade. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that median household income has trended downward since 1999:

[U.S. Census Bureau, accessed 1/22/13]

For previous instances where Fox News blamed President Obama for the decline in median income, click here and here.