According to annual data from the Census Bureau, median income adjusted for inflation – a closely watched measure of the financial health of average Americans – fell to $50,054 in 2011, or 1.5 per cent below its 2010 level and 4.1 per cent below its score when Mr Obama took office in 2009.Although real median income had already started to slide beginning in 2008, before Mr Obama entered the White House, the fact that he was not able to reverse that downward trend could expose him to criticism from Mitt Romney, his rival, that his policies have not aided the middle class. In addition to the drop in overall median income, the data also showed a rise in income inequality last year.
The release of the dire median figures also offers the latest reminder of the sluggishness of the recovery, marked by high unemployment and weak job creation, which is prompting Federal Reserve officials to consider a new round of monetary easing as early as Thursday.
But while the data on income will have been discouraging for Mr Obama, other elements of the report were more upbeat. For instance, the poverty rate dropped slightly, from 15.1 per cent to 15 per cent, as fewer middle-class Americans struggled so much that they had slid under the poverty threshold of about $23,000 in annual income for a family of four.