3 Charts Showing How Middle-Class Incomes Continue to Stagnate While Overall Inequality Grows
SOURCE: AP/Lynne Sladky
New Census Bureau data released today further highlight the economic challenges faced by today’s middle class. As U.S. household incomes further declined in 2012, families in the middle class continued to watch their share of the national economic pie stagnate at record-low levels and see those at the very top disproportionately claim the little income growth that has occurred since the end of the Great Recession.
The following three charts present these latest Census figures in a historical context and illustrate the extent to which the middle class has struggled to make headway in an increasingly unequal economy.
While middle-class households suffered deeply during the Great Recession, the underlying trends that have left them increasingly excluded from the nation’s economic growth date back much further than 2007. The typical American household’s annual income peaked in 1999 and has since declined by 9 percent, while the share of the nation’s total income going to the middle class has been falling since topping out at 53.2 percent in 1968. What economic growth has occurred in recent years has been distributed more and more unequally, with the wealthiest households—and the super-rich in particular—claiming almost all of the income gains seen in the past three years as the middle class has fallen further behind.
To get the middle class back on its feet, Congress must take action to help put more Americans back to work and ensure that the jobs we are creating are high-quality jobs that sustain the middle class. The United States needs a vibrant and prosperous middle class to spur economic growth. While the trends of the past several decades may take time to reverse, we must take action to do so if the economy of tomorrow is to truly work for all Americans and not just those at the very top.
David Madland is Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Keith Miller is a Research Assistant with the American Worker Project.
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or email@example.com
Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or email@example.com
Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Center for American Progress' Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, TalkPoverty.org, faith)
202.478.5328 or email@example.com
Print: Benton Strong (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.481.8142 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Spanish-language and ethnic media: Jennifer Molina
202.796.9706 or email@example.com
TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio: Sally Tucker
202.482.8103 or email@example.com