Are You Better Off than You Were Four Years Ago?

GDP per capita, consumption per capita, disposable income per capita, unemployment, economic policy uncertainty, VIX, and Misery Index — plus median household income.

Figure 1: GDP per capita now (blue), and four years ago (tan), both in bn.Ch.2017$ SAAR. Source: BEA.

Figure 2: Consumption per capita now (blue), four years ago (tan), in 2017$ SAAR. Source: BEA.

Figure 3: Disposable personal income per capita now (blue), four years ago (tan), in 2017$ SAAR. Source: BEA.

Figure 4: Unemployment rate now (blue), four years ago (tan), in %. April observation is Bloomberg consensus. Source: BLS.


Figure 5: VIX now (blue), four years ago (tan). Source: CBOE via FRED.

Figure 6: Economic Policy Uncertainty index (blue), four years ago (tan). Source: via FRED.

Figure 7: Misery index now (blue), four years ago (tan), in %. April observation of unemployment is Bloomberg consensus, inflation is from Cleveland Fed nowcast as of 4/30/2024. Source: BLS, Cleveland Fed, and author’s calculations.

I don’t have a time series for real median household income index, but I can compare the March 2024 value to February 2020 (which Motio research indicates is the likely peak) value of 115.8.

Source: Motio Research.

I’d say, by these measures, the answer is “yes”, even using median income.



14 thoughts on “Are You Better Off than You Were Four Years Ago?

    1. Macroduck

      In the case of disposable incoe, median family income, consumption per capita, GDP per capita and disposable income, we are better off now than at any time during Trump’s presidency. For policy uncertainty we are better off now than for all but one point in Trump’s presidency. You’ve ignored those facts, though they are perfectly clear from the figures. Perhaps you should sprinkle a little honesty into your thinking before you comment next time.

  1. pgl

    Yea but the only measure Bruce Hall cares about is how many times his mommy buys him ice cream. He used to get it once a week but mommy is so frustrated with Brucie embarrassing the family that he has not had any ice cream for over a month.

  2. New Deal democrat

    The one big contra indicator to these series is housing (un)affordability, which continues to be awful:

    This is the biggest economic issue that the Biden team really should address (as best they can because so much of the driver has to do with local zoning decisions).

    Also, Motio’s breakout to the upside vs, the 2019 range is only one month old. Here’s hoping it continues.

  3. Robert

    Everything is better. Unless you were laid off and can’t get interviews or you are told you are overqualified or you get offers for much less than you made before.

    1. baffling

      are your skills stagnant? or have you been educating yourself on the latest technology needed in your field? that is a two way street. perhaps you got laid off because you were making more than your value to the company? if that was the case, what changes have you made?

    2. Macroduck

      Let’s not confuse the particular with the general. In general, things are better now than 4 years ago, or a year ago, but that doesn’t mean everyone is benefiting.

      No matter who’s running the government, no matter where we are in the business cycle, there will be people who aren’t doing well. Good governance and good economic performance improve the odds for most people, which is the most we can hope for.

  4. Steven Kopits

    I donʻt think people are going to compare anything to the pandemic. Trump did not cause the pandemic, and frankly, most countries around the world suffered some sort of economic shock. I donʻt think thatʻs how voters are going to make comparisons.

    They will make comparisons with 2019. The numbers are a mixed bag. Median household income is about the same. If you had to buy a house or a car in recent times, you may not be better off. Btw, property taxes and home insurance have gone up a lot since then, without any corresponding increase in tangible benefits that I can see, at least for most homeowners. On my current homes, my property taxes are up 37% since 2019. What are the presumptions on that from a ʻrealʻ perspective? Is there a presumption that services have gone up accordingly, thus “consumption” has increased? Or is it treated purely as cost inflation? I donʻt see any improvement in objective public services, only greater costs for the services we were already receiving. Similarly, if insurance goes up, is that pure inflation, or does it reflect ʻincreased serviceʻ to cover higher replacement costs?

    In any event, it looks like the median household is not materially better off than it was in 2019. A lost five years.

    1. Macroduck

      What you think is beside the point. There is no evidence that voters compare their situation now to particular years in the past; in that sense, there’s nothing special about 2019. There is evidence that confidence survey respondents have become more partisan in their responses, Republicans more so than Democrats or the politically unaffiliated. There is evidence that economic conditions 3 to 6 months prior to voting are what really matter in terms of voter preference. This stuff is pretty well documented. No need to rely on personal opinion.

  5. pgl

    ” it looks like the median household is not materially better off than it was in 2019. A lost five years.”

    Stevie dons the MAGA hat so he can get invited to Fox and Friends. Let’s see – do not blame Trump for 2000. And do not credit Biden for the recovery income as Biden should get the blame for what happened before he became President.

    Hey Stevie – your hero John Lott was on the TV showing everyone how he and you do it. More on that in a separate comment.

  6. pgl

    I have to give credit for taking down the latest trash from John Lott (Princeton Steve’s mentor):

    Crime is down but Donald Trump isn’t buying it

    The real news here is John Lott went onto Real America’s Voice to flat out LIE about what has been happening to crime:

    The adults in the room should check what Kevin and his informed commenters had to say. But Princeton Steve will see this as a new venue (Real America’s Voice) to spin Stevie’s usual insanity.

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