So you want a statistically significant economic recovery?

The Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (go figure) produce a lot of provocative statistics, many of which are not statistically significant. That is, for example, the Census Bureau released today the annual “Income Report,” which includes official statistics on U.S. household income as well as poverty rates, and health insurance coverage estimates. These are “estimates” because they are based on a sample, a really good national sample of the American population. But median household income for 2013 at $51,939 is only $180 dollars higher than the median for 2012, an insignificant amount you might say. But also, the two medians are not “statistically” different from each other because nine times out of ten, if you repeated the survey, you would get about the same number. In essence, there was no real change in median income from 2012 to 2013 for the average household. By the way, that finding of "no change" is interesting and important, even though it shows no statistically significant change.

But no change in household median income (and there was no change last year as well) is better than decline, right?  In the years since 2007, median household income overall has basically “bottomed out” (hopefully) but it’s still down 8 percent compared to pre-Great Recession times. Underneath the average, however, some groups are beginning to see better times. Who are they?

Median incomes of Hispanic households are up 3.5 percent, and that is statistically significant. Welcome to Hispanic Heritage Month! Households headed by a person aged 15 to 24, median income up 10.5 percent. True, that’s up from a fairly low level but it’s still up. Incomes of persons aged 65 and older, up 3.7 percent. Maybe that’s leading edge Baby Boomers postponing retirement. Non-citizens' median income, up 6 percent. Immigrants generally come here to work hard, right? Those demographics are seeing some light. They are on the statistically significant economic recovery bandwagon. Everyone else is treading water.

Individually, of course, everyone has their own story which is significant in its own right.