Oy, Canada: The “Average” American Household Is Worth How Much?!

Economic Theory

I don’t do economic reporting, and quite possibly there’s good reason for that, but the numbers in the day’s much-noted story of how Canadians are wealthier now than Americans are all screwy to me. Actually, it’s not the numbers so much as how the numbers were presented.

Here’s the thing: The news cycle-igniting Toronto Globe and Mail article noted that, as of 2011, “the average household net worth” in the United States of Bill Gates, me and the part-time fast-food worker was $319,970.

Works for me. In that case, the paper is clearly talking about the statistical average.

But in almost every iteration I saw after, though, the statistical average gets morphed into, at least to my ears, Joe and Jane Average, those lovely folks of the picket-fence-surrounded “average American household.”

As of 2011, the dead-middle, median household income in the United States was $50,000 and change.

If, on that kind of money, in this kind of housing market, and in this kind of recession, Joe and Jane Average are really, truly worth six figures—times three—then they ought to be commended, not made to feel bad for getting shown up by the Canadians.

ADD: Oh, and by the way, as of 2009, the median household net worth in the United States was $96,000. I suspect that is what the ledger of the middle-of-the-pack, average American, non-statisically speaking, of course, looks more like.