Measuring Success

Target 2: Median Personal Income

Issue area

For our purpose, personal income refers to the income of a working person age 15 and over. Traditionally, median personal income provides information about whether the median wage earner can afford the costs of living within a region without family or external support.


To set a target for median personal income, we first identified the budget required today (2017) for a single adult to cover basic needs in LA County, using the California Budget & Policy Center’s analysis (see Figure 3), which is $29,217.

We then analyzed the adjusted median personal incomes, using the CPI. Like real median household income, real median personal income has just recently (2017) surpassed its pre-recession levels.

Nominal vs. Real Median Personal Income1

(Figure 5) Like real median household incomes, real median personal incomes are overall below the values before and during the Great Recession of 2007-09. Real median personal income has not exceeded the 2005 value of $29,585.


Propel L.A. consequently set our 2020 median personal income target:

  • to cover the basic needs of a single adult ($29,217) as identified by the California Budget & Policy Center; and
  • calculating the future value of the $29,217 that is required today, assuming a 2.0 percent annual inflation rate, yields a real median household income value of $31,005 at the end of 2020.

Again, we assume ceteris paribus, that is “all other things being equal” and “all else unchanged.” Although variables such as increased cost of living and inflation will change, we cannot predict these factors when setting our 2020 target.

Taken together, we hope to see the median personal income in Los Angeles County rise to at least $31,000 by the end of 2020, which would cover the basic needs of a typical “single adult”.

[1] Table B06011, 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates and Propel L.A. Analysis. Versions of this table are available starting in 2005. The latest available data is from 2017 as of the time of publication.