Sometimes one chart really does tell you what you need to know.
The Economic Policy Institute prepared an updated chart yesterday based on newly-released Census data. It confirms what most people know: the last generation has seen no improvement in the economic standing of ordinary workers. Indeed, this “median real income” picture masks elements of underlying deterioration, including: increased working hours (understated due to the fact that overtime by salaried workers isn’t captured in official statistics); a rise in “on demand” schedules in retail; shortened job tenures, which increases stress; and a reduction in health care benefits (by restricting coverage and/or increasing employee charges).
Key points from the EPI report (emphasis theirs):
The Census data show that from 2013–2014, median household income for non-elderly households (those with a head of household younger than 65 years old) decreased 1.3 percent from $61,252 to $60,462. This decrease unfortunately exacerbates the trend of losses incurred during the Great Recession and the losses that prevailed in the prior business cycle from 2000–2007. Median household income for non-elderly households in 2014 ($60,462) was 9.2 percent, or $6,113, below its level in 2007. The disappointing trends of the Great Recession and its aftermath come on the heels of the weak labor market from 2000–2007, during which the median income of non-elderly households fell significantly from $68,941 to $66,575, the first time in the post-war period that incomes failed to grow over a business cycle. Altogether, from 2000–2014, the median income for non-elderly households fell from $68,941 to $60,462, a decline of $8,479, or 12.3 percent…
Since 1973, the median man working full-time, full-year has seen no sustained growth, dropping from $53,291 in 1973 to $51,902 in 2002 and falling further over the 2002-07 recovery and the recession to $50,383 in 2014..
A second chart shows that even when you parse out the apparently most successful cohort, those that have full-time employment, still show stagnant real incomes for the past decade plus:
If anyone wants to know why Bernie Sanders is doing so well despite his outsider status, they need only to look at this data. Wage earners outside the top 10% (which one can reconceptualize as the top 1%, plus the various service professionals that support them, like lawyers, consultants, and high end personal service businesses, along with wannabes) know they’v been left in the ditch, and they are hungry to see candidates that want to change that.