For years prior to the start of the current recession, job growth in America has tended to take place most rapidly on opposite ends of the economic spectrum. High-paid occupations requiring high levels of education have grown rapidly at the same time as the low-wage, service job sector has also expanded. Dr. David Autor, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times that “middle-skilled, middle-wage white-collar and blue-collar jobs” have been largely left out of this growth. According to a recent report by Dr. Autor, the current recession has magnified this on-going crisis facing the shrinking middle class of America. Sen. Bernie Sanders has long sought to point out the collapse of the middle class and its negative impacts on our society. To address these problems, the senator has called for fundamentally changing Wall Street so that large financial institutions invest in the job-creation, rebuilding our infrastructure, moving away from imported fossil fuels towards energy efficiency and sustainable energy and, thus, creating good-paying jobs. Senator Sanders also advocates rewriting our trade policy to rebuild our manufacturing capabilities, and invest in improved health care and education.
As part of his efforts to highlight the struggles of working families, Sen. Sanders hosted a town meeting with the now-famous Elizabeth Warren in Montpelier in April 2008 to discuss the collapse of the middle class. Prof. Warren said families need to have two incomes to provide basic necessities and that means there is less room for economic disruption that can be caused when someone loses their job or a child or elderly parent gets sick. "A family in the mid-2000s is a much risker family than was the family in the early 1970s," Warren said according to The Associated Press. Prior to the meeting, Sanders had asked constituents for their personal stories of economic struggle. This resulted in his Middle Class Collapse booklet, available here.
Dr. Autor’s study for the Center for American Progress and the Hamilton Project said:
…the structure of job opportunities in the United States has sharply polarized over the past two decades, with expanding job opportunities in both high-skill, high-wage occupations and low-skill, low wage occupations, coupled with contracting opportunities in middle-wage, middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Concretely, employment and earnings are rising in both high education professional, technical, and managerial occupations and, since the late 1980s, in low-education food service, personal care, and protective service occupations. Conversely, job opportunities are declining in both middle-skill, white collar clerical, administrative, and sales occupations and in middle-skill, blue-collar production, craft, and operative occupations. The decline in middle-skill jobs has been detrimental to the earnings and labor force participation rates of workers without a four-year college education, and differentially so for males, who are increasingly concentrated in low-paying service occupations.
To read the Times article, click here.
To read Dr. Autor’s study, click here.