President Trump, in a press conference on 9 October 2018, said the following to reporters.

You know, [Kayne West] loves what we're doing for African-American jobs, for so many different things. Median income, as you see, at an all-time high. Poverty level at the best rate -- meaning the lowest rate so far. And Kanye is a smart guy. And he sees that.

Is this true?

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Based on number from the US Census Bureau, the median household income of white people increased by 2.6% from 2016 to 2017, while that of black people "did not see a statistically significant change" (-0.2%; see the bureau report).

In the 4 previous years, black median income has been on the rise (after it declined in the 2007/2008 recession).

What is true is that the black unemployment rate continued the downwards trend it started in 2011 (but giving Trump - or any president - credit for this is "a stretch").

I am not aware of any numbers for 2018 (the census bureau will release those in 2019), but looking at the general trend, the numbers might improve further. I am not aware of any programs from the Trump administration which were specifically meant to increase black median income or help black poverty. The tax cut for example helps white people more than black people (mostly - but not only - because it helps high-income people more).

  • what page did you see that "did not see a statistically significant change"? You might want to consider adding that to your answer. – DenisS Oct 12 at 14:48
  • @DenisS The page number is 5, though it is actually the 13th page of the PDF as a whole. I do agree that it would be good to add this to the answer (or adjust the link to go directly to the relevant section, if possible). – Kamil Drakari Oct 12 at 14:55
  • @DenisS that's a quote from the CNN article. The -0.2% is from page 2 (I adjusted the link to point to that page) – tim Oct 12 at 15:00
  • @tim I fixed the link, it wasn't going to the right page. – DenisS Oct 12 at 15:09
  • @DenisS I linked to the table itself on page 2. But the graph and text on page 5 are good as well. – tim Oct 12 at 15:17

According to FRED economic data (which identifies the original source as U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), Black Employed full time Median weekly real earnings has been tracking high since 2016, but not necessarily all-time high. Perhaps if you used unadjusted dollars or a rolling two year average, it would be at an all-time high, but it is hard to say.

Feel free to play around with the chart in the link (which is editable) to try to find something better. I changed the frequency on my graph to semi-annual to smooth it out some. I left all the other defaults on. Data is available through Q2 2018.

Chart

  • 2
    This seems like a good source. But when I click on your link, the graph looks different than the screenshot you posted (eg a short-term spike in the 1st quarter of 2018); can you explain why? In either case, both graphs show a notable downwards trend from Q1 2017 (start of Trumps presidency) to the most recent Q2 2018. I think one conclusion from this graph would be: "No, black median income is not at an all-time high; it has decreased since the beginning of Trump's presidency (which isn't necessarily attributable to any action by Trump - just like an increase wouldn't be)". – tim Oct 12 at 12:57
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    @tim I changed the frequency on my graph to semi-annual to smooth it out some. I left all the other defaults on. – Underminer Oct 12 at 13:08
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    I assumed something like that, but you might want to add that to your answer to avoid confusion (I think smoothing makes sense here, as it shows the downwards-trend more clearly). I didn't dw (the opposite), but you might also want to reconsider your conclusion. The question is about what Trump has done for black people, so I think the fact that median income has declined during Trump is much more relevant than the fact that income has generally recovered after the recession (it's currently not even high compared to eg 2003). – tim Oct 12 at 13:15
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    It appears high compared to the values in the recession. It appears average compared to the 2000s. And it appears to be in a downwards trend since Trump has taken office. That seems like relevant information for an answer. And I think it would require a lot of number-fudging to get to an "all-time high". – tim Oct 12 at 13:21
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    @Underminer is there any way to adjust the graph to not use CPI adjusted dollars? I know that's cheating but I'd like to see if this is what Trump might be talking about. – DenisS Oct 12 at 14:42

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