America is getting richer every year. The American worker is not.
Far from it: On average, workers born in 1942 earned as much or more over their careers than workers born in any year since, according to new research — and workers on the job today shouldn’t expect to catch up with their predecessors in their remaining years of employment.
Stagnant or falling earnings have put a squeeze on working- and middle-class households. The trend has also widened the gap between the rich and everyone else as, overall, the economy has continued to grow overall but the bulk of those gains have ended up in the pockets of the affluent.
These are some of the conclusions from a new working paper by a group of economists investigating the reasons for the decline of the American middle class. While economists have been concerned about recent data on earnings, the new paper suggests that ordinary Americans have been dealing with serious economic problems for much longer than may be widely recognized.
The new paper includes some “astonishing numbers,” said Gary Burtless, an economist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution who was not involved in the research. “The stagnation of living standards began so much earlier than people think,” he said.