Posts Tagged ‘Median Income’

The American middle class is still struggling

March 9, 2015




Americans historically have thought of ourselves as a middle class nation, a nation in which the majority of people were neither poor nor rich.  That is becoming less true.

The median level of income—that is, the dividing line between the top and bottom 50 percent of income earners—has been falling for 15 years.  This is not a good thing.

At the same time the middle tier of income earners is shrinking.  The middle tier are those who earn more than two-thirds of the median income and less than double the median income.  This is not a good thing.

I think the causes of this trend are the de-industrialization of the U.S. economy, the financialization of the U.S. economy and the upward redistribution of income to a small elite of financiers and corporate executives.


The American Middle Class Hasn’t Gotten a Raise in Fifteen Years by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.


Upward mobility isn’t the most important thing

July 29, 2013
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It’s good if hard-working talented people can rise in the social scale.  But measures of social mobility shown on the map and the New York Times link in the previous post are not measures of objective well-being.  They only show how many Americans improve their income ranking compared to other Americans.  They do not show how well we Americans as a whole are doing.

Improvement in income ranking is a zero-sum game.  For everybody that rises to a higher percentile in income rank, at least one other person must fall.  Nothing wrong with that—but how Americans are sorted into winners and losers is a different question from whether Americans as a whole have an opportunity to better their condition.

The United States in the early 19th century was justly reputed to be the best country in the world for working people, at least for white working men.  The American dream was not just that an unschooled rail splitter like Abraham Lincoln could become President of the United States.  It was that all rail splitters could earn a sufficient living to support their families, and could expect their children could have better lives than they did.

It’s better to have fluid economic classes than hereditary poverty and wealth.  But it is more important to have a system in which all hard-working, law-abiding people can have a decent standard of living and realistically hope for a better future for their children.   It matters little if a select few can aspire to wealth if the economic system is set up so that a large, fixed number of people are going to be poor.