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Report Number P60-117


In the 1980 census, the Bureau plans to discontinue the use of the terms "head of family" and "head of household." In this report, the term "Householder" has been used in the text in place of the term "head." For technical reasons, however, the term "head" appears in the detailed tables. Further discussion of these changes can be found in the section, "Head versus Householder."

Money Income in 1977

The median money income of households in the United States rose to $13,570 in 1977, a 7-percent increase from the 1976 median of $12,690. However, almost all of this increase was eroded by rising prices. After adjusting for the 6.5 percent rise in prices between 1976 and 1977, the 1977 median in terms of constant dollars did not show a significant change from the 1976 median.1

Changes in real median household income have been mixed during the 1970's. Although real median household income increased by 6 percent between 1971 and 1973, there was a 7-percent decrease during the recessionary period from 1973 to 1975 which more than offset the gain. (See table A.) In spite of the subsequent increase of 2 percent between 1975 and 1977, real median household income in 1977 ($13,570) was not statistically different from the 1970 median ($13,630).

The lack of growth in real median household income may be due in part to the changing composition of households during the 1970's. Between March 1971 and March 1978, the proportion of households with husband-wife families declined from 69.4 to 62.3 percent; families with no spouse present increased from 11.1 to 12.7 percent of households; unrelated individuals increased from 19.6 to 25.1 percent of households.2 These trends have a tendency to lower the average number of persons per household, which declined from 3.11 in March 1971 to 2.81 in March 1978. Husband-wife households, which are a relatively high income group, are now a smaller proportion of all households. This trend along with smaller household size has created downward pressure on the median household income.

Per capita income, by contrast, has shown a significant increase in real terms since 1970. Between 1970 and 1973, per capita household income increased by 12 percent, but decreased by 4 percent during the next 2 years. (See table A.) The subsequent 7-percent increase between 1975 and 1977 combined with the earlier changes resulted in a 15-percent increase in real per capita income between 1970 and 1977. This presents a somewhat more optimistic picture than comparisons of median income, since per capita income measures the average income available to all persons—men, women, and children.

Aggregate household money income increased by 11 percent between 1976 and 1977 as a result of a 3-percent increase in the number of households (1.9 million additional households) and an 8-percent increase in the average (mean) household money income. After adjusting for inflation, the 1977 aggregate household income represented an increase of 4 percent over the 1976 figure.

Of the 76.0 million households in the United States in March 1978, 13.8 million (18.2 percent) had incomes of $25,000 or more in 1977; these households received 41.3 percent of aggregate income in 1977. Another 20.6 million households (27.2 percent) had incomes between $15,000 and $25,000 and received 32.7 percent of aggregate income. At the other end of the scale, 12.5 million households (16.5 percent) had incomes under $5,000 and received 3.0 percent of the aggregate income. (See table B.)

1 The percentage increase in prices between 1976 and 1977 is computed by dividing the annual average Consumer Price Index (CPI) for 1977 by the annual average value of the CPI for 1976.
2 Restricted to primary families and individuals.

A Note on Language

Census statistics date back to 1790 and reflect the growth and change of the United States. Past census reports contain some terms that today’s readers may consider obsolete and inappropriate. As part of our goal to be open and transparent with the public, we are improving access to all Census Bureau original publications and statistics, which serve as a guide to the nation's history.

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