Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016 to 2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances
Posted: 21 Oct 2020
Date Written: September 1, 2020
The Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances for 2019 provides insights into the evolution of family income and net worth since the previous time the survey was conducted in 2016. The survey shows that over the 2016–19 period, the median value of real (inflation-adjusted) family income before taxes rose 5 percent, and mean income decreased 3 percent. Real median net worth increased 18 percent, and mean net worth rose 2 percent. This survey marks the first in the aftermath of the Great Recession in which between-survey changes in the median outpaced changes in the mean for either measure, indicating that families in large parts of both distributions enjoyed gains in economic well-being. And, while the data also reveal some disparities in the evolution of income and net worth since 2016 across families differentiated by economic characteristics, such as income or wealth, and demographic characteristics, such as age, education, or race and ethnicity, many groups with historically lower income and net worth saw relatively large gains. This article reviews these and other changes in the financial condition of U.S. families, including developments in assets, liabilities, debt payments, and credit market experiences. The findings in this article do not reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on family finances, as almost all of the data in the 2019 survey were collected before the onset of the pandemic.
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