Fed Survey: Americans’ Financial Well-Being Improved in Mid-2010s

Families’ financial conditions generally improved — and at a faster rate than in previous years — from 2013 to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances released today. Unlike the previous three-year survey period from 2010 to 2013, when incomes fell in all brackets except the highest-earning 10 percent, incomes for 2013 to 2016 rose in all brackets. Average income rose by 14 percent, while median income fell by 10 percent. Median income fell by 5 percent in the previous three-year period covered by the survey.

These years also saw growth in net worth for families at all points on the income distribution. This reflected in part rising home values from 2013 to 2016, as well as an ongoing process of deleveraging. Median debt for families with debt fell by 2 percent during the period. Part of the debt decline was a continued decline in homeownership; the homeownership rate dropped 1.5 points during this period to 63.7 percent — more than five points below its high point.

The survey also tracked financial behavior. The number of families reporting that they do not borrow or invest rose from 9.6 percent in 2007 to 13.7 percent in 2013. The overall rate of families that save rose from 53 percent in 2013 to 55.4 percent in 2016, not far below its level in 2007. Even families in the bottom half of the income distribution increased their savings during this period. Nearly 52 percent of families reported owning stocks, up from 48.8 percent in the previous period.