Tag Archives: wages

New Census Bureau data on median household income

Permanent musical accompaniment to this post: Party Like It’s 1999.

The median income for U.S. households is now slightly higher than what the median income was for households . . . in 1999. Americans are finally making more money than we were in 1999:

Adjusted for inflation, median household income rose to $59,039, which is up 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to Census Bureau statistics. The previous highest median income, the Associated Press reported, was $58,665, which was recorded in 1999.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 1.34.27 PM

It took 18 years, but the American median income is finally back to where it was before the 2001 recession.

The report covers the final year of the Obama administration, in which poverty rates also decreased from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent. In real numbers, that’s a drop of 2.5 million people, according to USA Today. The number represent the first time since the recession that the rate wasn’t higher than levels prior to the recession.

In a year filled with debate on health care, the amount of Americans who have health insurance increased by 900,000 to 28.1 million, and the percentage of Americans not covered by insurance dropped from 9.1 percent to 8.8 percent.

Continue reading

Jared Bernstein: The whys of increasing inequality

I posted about this chart last week, Inequality in One Chart, and our “usual suspects” posted their utterly nonsensical defenses of faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economics in the comments.

Today, economist Jared Bernstein weighs in at the Washington Post, The whys of increasing inequality: A graphical portrait:

The graph below, based on the work of economists Gabriel Zucman, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, has been receiving considerable attention since it appeared in the New York Times last week. It shows the rate of annual income growth for adults at each percentile in the income distribution — from those who have the lowest incomes to those who have the highest incomes — over two time periods: the mid-1940s to 1980, and 1980 to 2014. Over the first period, post-tax income growth was fastest at the bottom, about 2 percent per year for the “middle class” (the 40th to the 80th percentiles), and a little slower among the wealthy.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 7.50.09 AM

The growth pattern over the second 34-year period looks very different: The richer you were, the faster you got ahead. Incomes grew less than 1 percent for the bottom 50 percent and less than 2 percent for the next 45 percent. They then took off for the richest Americans, with the growth rate for the richest adults ending up about six times that of those in the middle.

The chart is a clear, intuitive way to show the increase in income inequality over the past few decades, and an important reminder that growth for the rich cannot be expected to trickle down to everyone else.

But it doesn’t show why inequality has grown. What explains this portentous change, one that has had profound effects on our society, our living standards, and our politics?

In fact, there are many perps, each of which is captured in the “Inequality’s Causes” slide below. They do, however, share a theme: Many of the factors that enforced a more equitable distribution of growth in the earlier period have been eroded. Moreover, that erosion is neither an accident nor the benign outcome of natural economic evolution. It is often the result of policies that have reduced workers’ bargaining power and supported the upward redistribution of growth.

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 6.23.36 AM

Continue reading

Rising wage inequality: the wedge between productivity and worker’s wages

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman blog today cites the most recent report by Josh Bivens and Larry Mishel on the productivity-pay gap.  Understanding the Historic Divergence Between Productivity and a Typical Worker’s Pay: Why It Matters and Why It’s Real:

Income-InequalityWage stagnation experienced by the vast majority of American workers has emerged as a central issue in economic policy debates, with candidates and leaders of both parties noting its importance. This is a welcome development because it means that economic inequality has become a focus of attention and that policymakers are seeing the connection between wage stagnation and inequality. Put simply, wage stagnation is how the rise in inequality has damaged the vast majority of American workers.

The Economic Policy Institute’s earlier paper, Raising America’s Pay: Why It’s Our Central Economic Policy Challenge, presented a thorough analysis of income and wage trends, documented rising wage inequality, and provided strong evidence that wage stagnation is largely the result of policy choices that boosted the bargaining power of those with the most wealth and power (Bivens et al. 2014). As we argued, better policy choices, made with low- and moderate-wage earners in mind, can lead to more widespread wage growth and strengthen and expand the middle class.

Continue reading