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Americans grow discretionary income

Highest per capita reserves reported in Northeast

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About 57 million U.S. households now have discretionary income, up from nearly 54 million in 1997-1998, according to a new study released today by The Conference Board. But the percentage of the American population with discretionary income has edged down to 51 percent, compared with 52 percent six years ago. The study shows that 82 percent of all discretionary income is held by those earning $100,000 and more. Average discretionary income for this segment – $62,110 – is nearly three times above the U.S. average of $21,657. Households with discretionary income, as defined in the study, are those whose spendable income exceeds that held by households with similar demographic features. "Spendable income" is defined as money available after taxes have been paid. "Discretionary income is a major force in the health and growth of the overall economy," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Rising numbers of affluent households who co...