Real Disposable Income Per Capita Continued to Inch Up in December

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.


With the release of Friday morning's report on December's personal incomes and outlays, we can now take a closer look at "real" disposable personal income per capita. At two decimal places, the nominal 0.22% month-over-month change in disposable income comes to 0.17% when we adjust for inflation. This is a decrease from last month's .28% nominal and 0.18% real change. The year-over-year metrics are 2.71% nominal and -2.20% real.

Post-great recession, the trend was one of steady growth, but generally flattened out in late 2015 with increases in 2012 and 2013. As a result of COVID pandemic stimulus measures, major spikes can be seen in April 2020, January 2021 (a December 2020 payment), and March 2021.

The first chart shows both the nominal per capita disposable income and the real (inflation-adjusted) equivalent since 2000. This indicator was significantly disrupted by the bizarre but predictable oscillation caused by 2012 year-end tax strategies in expectation of tax hikes in 2013 and more recently, by COVID stimulus.