Economic Snapshot | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

A lost decade of income growth for working-age families

The forthcoming State of Working America, 12th Edition documents that most Americans have seen a “lost decade” for measures of living standards progress such as wages, wealth and income. The figure below shows one such example, charting the growth of median income for working-age families. This measures the income of the household that is in the exact center of the income distribution; they have higher income than half of all working-age families and lower income than the other half. The chart focuses on working-age households because they are the ones most affected by the wage stagnation and eroded employment opportunities that have been evident over this decade.

The poor labor market performance of the last decade has clearly damaged the incomes of these working-age families. These incomes never recovered their 2000 peak during the recovery and expansion that followed the 2001 recession. They then fell precipitously following the onset of the Great Recession, declining more than 7 percent ($4,926) between 2007 and 2010.

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