Workers' Pay Divide Persists

By:  Neil Shah

The gap between America's highest- and lowest-paid workers is widening.

Labor Department figures released Tuesday show that between the end of the recession in mid-2009 and the first quarter of 2012, earnings of Americans at the top-meaning those who earned more than 90% of all workers-rose 7%, before adjusting for inflation. During the same period, wages of those at the bottom-meaning those who earned less than 90% of all workers-rose 2.5%.

That pay difference predates the global financial crisis: Between 2003 and 2007, wages grew 12.9% for high earners, compared with 8.4% for the lowest-paid 10% of workers.

Wages at the top have been growing more rapidly than those at the bottom for decades. Among the explanations offered by academic economists are globalization and the rise of technology. Globalization has shifted many of America's low-skilled, high-paid manufacturing jobs overseas, while technology has made U.S. firms more productive but rendered some jobs obsolete. The result: America's labor market increasingly looks divided between jobs that require high education and those that don't.

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