Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016 to 2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Posted: 21 Oct 2020

See all articles by Neil Bhutta

Neil Bhutta

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Jesse Bricker

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Andrew C. Chang

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Lisa J. Dettling

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Sarena Goodman

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Joanne W. Hsu

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Howard University - Department of Economics

Kevin B. Moore

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Sarah Reber

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Alice Henriques Volz

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Richard Windle

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Date Written: September 1, 2020

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Bhutta, Neil and Bricker, Jesse and Chang, Andrew C. and Dettling, Lisa J. and Goodman, Sarena and Hsu, Joanne W. and Moore, Kevin B. and Reber, Sarah and Henriques Volz, Alice and Windle, Richard, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016 to 2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances (September 1, 2020). Federal Reserve Bulletin, Vol. 106, No. 5 (September 2020). https://doi.org/10.17016/bulletin.2020.106, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3716339

Neil Bhutta (Contact Author)

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Jesse Bricker

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Andrew C. Chang

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Lisa J. Dettling

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Sarena Goodman

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Joanne W. Hsu

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Howard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Washington, DC 20059
United States

Kevin B. Moore

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Sarah Reber

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Alice Henriques Volz

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Richard Windle

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

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