New U.S. census data shows incomes for American families rose more than 5 percent in 2015, signaling what analysts are hailing as a turning point in the recovery from the global recession that began in 2007.
The data, released Tuesday, shows the 5.2 percent gain reaching all geographical regions of the country and all age groups, ending eight years of stagnant incomes. It further shows that national poverty levels fell by 1.2 percent, shrinking by 3.5 million to about 8 percent - the steepest one-year decline in nearly half a century.
Forty-three million Americans were identified as living in poverty in 2015, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. Additionally, the number of Americans without health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling by 1.3 percent to just over 9 percent.
Despite the dramatic gains, the data show median incomes still 1.6 percent lower than in 2007, the year when U.S. unemployment began a sharp climb and the housing market plummeted. The crisis spawned the Great Recession of 2008, upending European and Asian markets and triggering massive job losses as well as sharp cuts in government services in the United States and abroad.
The report also shows real median income in Hispanic households increasing by 6.1 percent between 2014 and 2015. Non-Hispanic white and black households saw increases of 4.4 percent and 4.1 percent respectively. Asian households had the highest median income of all ethnic groups in 2015, however their income did not significantly change from 2014.
The largest gains in household income occurred in the American West - a jump of 6.4 percent. Southern states recorded the smallest improvement at just under three percent.
Analysts expect the new data to become a central issue in the ongoing U.S. presidential campaign, with median household income higher now than in 2009, when President Barack Obama took office.
The six-year climb from the economic wreckage of the so-called Great Recession fueled a host of insurgent Republican congressional candidates who argued that the administration of President Barack Obama was largely ineffective in addressing the crisis.
The length of the recovery also played a major role in the candidacy of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.