Which president in recent history has helped the middle class increase their income more than any other? Which president benefited the wealthiest the most? Which president has helped close the income disparity gap between these two groups the most? We find out.
As a follow-up to our investigation into who helped the poorest American’s first we decided to test political claims about who has helped the middle class Americans the most relative to other presidents. Often times these claims are unsubstantiated or cite politically motivated and unreviewed think tank studies written in Washington D.C. We find out using publicly available Census and FED data.
We downloaded Census income data from 1980 through 2019 for each quartile and the top 5 percent of earners in the United States. We assigned each year to the appropriate president and found the average growth for each president for each income group. We did this for the 2nd quartile and used this as representative of the middle class.
In addition, we then found the difference between the two groups, to see if one group benefited more than the other under each president. A positive percentage suggests the middle class Americans benefited more than the top 5 percent of Americans. A negative percentage the opposite.
Finally, we adjusted the initial growth findings by inflation to find the real income growth to see if presidents that had an initial positive reading turned negative.
Which president did increase the middle-class American’s the most in unadjusted dollars? Donald Trump improved the middle class American’s income by 3.2% followed by Clinton at 1.6%, Reagan at 0.9% and Obama at 0.5%. Middle class Americans lost income under both George W. Bush (-0.7777%) and George H.W. Bush (-0.9%). Trump, Clinton and Reagan benefited middle class American’s above average in unadjusted dollars.
But did middle class American’s really gain under these presidents? In order to find out we applied the inflation rate for each year and reduced the income by the same percentage. After applying the inflation rate Trump still benefited middle class Americans the most 1.1%. No other president benefited the middle class after applying the inflation for the year. Obama did the least harm at -0.8% income growth followed by Clinton (-1%), W. Bush (-3.5%), Reagan (-3.7%), and H.W. Bush (-5.3%). Trump, Obama and Clinton benefited the poorest American’s above average, the remainder below average.
How did each president benefit the rich? In raw, or nominal growth, Trump benefited the wealthy the most at 3.8% followed by Clinton (2.4%), Reagan (2.1%), Obama (1.4%). The wealthy did not benefit under W. Bush (0.1%) or H.W. Bush (-0.2%). Trump and Clinton benefited the wealthy in nominal dollars more than average, other presidents less.
After applying inflation, the wealthy saw income growth under Trump (1.7%) and Obama (0.02%). Under all other presidents the wealthy did not benefit; Reagan (-2.5%), W. Bush (-2.9%) and H.W. Bush (-4.5%). Trump, Obama and Clinton were above average.
Finally, we looked as the disparity in income growth between these two groups. As we are taking the difference the nominal and real numbers are the same so we only need to review this data once. The data below suggests that NO president benefited the middle-class over the wealthiest Americans. Wealthy American’s benefited more under all presidents. In the graph below the most positive number was more beneficial to the poorest Americans. This was lead by Clinton (-0.4%) followed by Trump (-0.8%), W. Bush (-1.1%) and Reagan (-1.3%).
President that benefited the middle-class the most in real income. Trump
A special note goes to the president that benefited the middle-class the most relative the gains of the wealthy, W. Bush. However, Bush, when adjusting for inflation, did not benefit the middle-class, rather the wealthy lost more ground than the middle-class did under W. Bush.