Back in 1979, notes a new Economic Policy Institute report released last week, households in America’s statistical middle — the 20 percent of households making more than the nation’s poorest 40 percent and less than the nation’s most affluent 40 percent — averaged $16.72, after inflation, per hour worked.
In 2012, households in this same statistical middle averaged $16.26 per hour.
Over roughly that same period, EPI analysts add, America’s top 1 percent of income-earners doubled their share of the nation’s income from paychecks, dividends, rent, and business earnings, from 7.2 to 14.2 percent.
Wage stagnation for average Americans. Record-level “success” for the 1 percent. The two have marched hand in hand for over three decades now, as EPI’s new Raising America’s Pay paper and two other new studies released last week detail with no small statistical panache.
The new EPI study emphasizes how the failure of wages to grow over recent decades has been driving growing inequality, undermining the living standards of America’s “broad middle class,” and stalling all progress against poverty.
Apologists for our current economic order blame wage stagnation on technological change — or workers themselves. Workers don’t have the right skills and credentials to get ahead, their argument goes.