The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

 

Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

David Bacon–Streets of New York: work or no work

A David Bacon photoessay on life and work on the streets of New York


© David Bacon, 2015

Click on the photo to go to the entire essay

From Chinatown to midtown, Manhattan is part of a city that works, and also that doesn’t work. That is, it’s full of working people, but not everyone has a job. Some people work on the street, while others live and sleep on it. New York is not like the suburbs, or cities built around malls and cars. Everything and anything can happen in the streets here.

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Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

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