Historical Median Income Statistics Request

Dear readers,

I’m writing this post with a brief request. Does anyone know of a good dataset of median incomes for all US households and/or families going back before World War II? What about median income of households just going back to the 1940s? I’ve found census data (e.g. in the 2010 Statistical Abstract), but it either doesn’t go back before the 1960s, or else it only tracks families. As far as I can tell, for the Census you are only a family if you are 2 or more related people living together. There are millions more households than families, and I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with that. Does anyone have a quick answer? Moreover, the CBO has excellent data on post-tax income taking into account government transfers (e.g. here) but the data only go back to 1976, and they report it in terms of quintiles rather than the median.

Long story short: is there an authoritative dataset of historical median income in the United States? If so, where?




  1. I think what you are looking for is the historical U.S. Statistical Abstracts. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/past_years.html

    Things are not usually labelled the same in each edition so you may have to do some digging.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  2. Andrew

     /  September 27, 2010

    Hey Dan, thanks for the past advice! (I emailed you a few months back asking about what it’s like being a ph. d in sociology) I would suggest emailing Lane Kenworthy. It seems like he’s the guy to go to on that sort of data.

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