Which President Increased the Poorest American’s Income the Most?

Which president in recent history has helped the poor increase their income more than any other? Which president benefited the wealthiest the most? Which president has helped close the income disparity gap the most? We find out.


Political claims are abound about who has helped the poorest American’s 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 the bottom quartile (bottom 20%) 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.
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 poorest 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 poorest American’s the most in unadjusted dollars? Donald Trump, improved the poorest American’s income by 3% followed by Clinton at 2.1%, Reagan at 0.8% and Obama at 0.4%. The poorest Americans lost income under both George W. Bush (-1%) and George H.W. Bush (-1.3%). Trump, Clinton and Reagan benefited the poorest American’s above average in unadjusted dollars.

But did the poorest 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 the poorest American’s the most 0.9%. No other president benefited the poor after applying the inflation for the year. Bill Clinton did the least harm at -0.6% income growth followed by Obama (-1%), Reagan and W. Bush (both at -3.8%) and H.W. Bush (-5.6%). 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 poorest American’s 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%).

Final Results

President that benefited the poor the most in real income? Trump, both in nominal income and real income

A special note goes to the president that benefited the poor the most relative the gains of the wealthy, Clinton. However, Clinton, when adjusting for inflation, did not benefit the poor, rather they lost the least relative to the wealthy under him.