The economic progress of middle-income households over the past generation is difficult to assess. Many recent reports portray stagnation—household incomes increased little, wages increased even less and rising expenses drove families into debt. In contrast, another set of reports describe large gains—income per person almost doubled, people are healthier and living longer, and the quality, quantity and variety of goods and services being consumed are greater than ever. It seems that life for middle America is stagnating at the same time it's getting much better.
This series of articles seek to reconcile the apparent conflict between statistics indicating stagnation in standards of living and statistics indicating robust growth. The issue addressed here is whether income growth over the past three decades bypassed middle America and accrued almost entirely to the rich. The study concludes that—contrary to many reports—middle America did quite well.
Middle American incomes rise substantially even while inequality increases.
Are Income Gains Due to More Wives Working Longer Hours?
The Region, September 2008
A closer look at hourly wages.
The Region, September 2007
Anxiety over middle class living is complex, but probably not as warranted as the hand-wringing might suggest.
fedgazette, September 2008