The State of Working America, 12th edition: Coming Tuesday, Sept. 11

The State of Working America is EPI’s authoritative analysis of the economic conditions of America’s workers. Visit for up-to-date numbers on the economy, updated when new data are released.

Aug. 29: Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages

Figure AFigure A (continued)

Union coverage rate in the United States, 1973–2011

Source: Author's analysis of Hirsch and Macpherson (2003) and updates from the Union Membership and Coverage Database


July 24: U.S. poverty rates higher, safety net weaker than in peer countries

Figure DFigure D (continued)

Child poverty rate in selected developed countries, 2009

Note: The child poverty rate is the share of children living in households with income below half of household-size-adjusted median income.

Source: Adamson (2012, Figure 1b)

May 24: Labor force participation: Cyclical versus structural changes since the start of the Great Recession

May 2: CEO pay and the top 1%: How executive compensation and financial-sector pay have fueled income inequality

Figure AFigure A (continued)

CEO-to-worker compensation ratio, with options granted and options realized,1965–2011

Note: "Options granted" compensation series includes salary, bonus, restricted stock grants, options granted, and long-term incentive payouts for CEOs at the top 350 firms ranked by sales. "Options exercised" compensation series includes salary, bonus, restricted stock grants, options exercised, and long-term incentive payouts for CEOs at the top 350 firms ranked by sales.

Sources: Authors' analysis of data from Compustat ExecuComp database, Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics program, and Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts Tables

April 26: The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth

”Figure”Figure (continued)

Sen. Tom Cotton misses the mark on immigration and wages

Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) recent NY Times op-ed on immigration—“Fix Immigration. It’s What Voters Want.”—gets a few things right, but the ultimate analysis is off the mark. Cotton’s thesis is that immigrants have flooded the labor market to such an extent that immigration is largely to blame for decades of wage stagnation. Immigration does sometimes have negative impacts on American workers—and we need to be clear about who the economic winners and losers are—but contrary to Cotton’s claims, there is scant evidence that immigration overall has kept wages low. Furthermore, Cotton ignores the real reasons wages have failed to rise for so many American workers.

But first, credit where credit is due.

Sen. Cotton deserves credit for calling out businesses that warn of looming labor shortages in low-skilled jobs despite any observable evidence that this is imminent (while research shows the opposite has been true during at least the past decade). Cotton claims, however, that these businesses mainly support immigration so that they can add additional workers to the labor market in order to lower wages. There’s a kernel of truth in that, but in reality, employers care more about hiring workers without power or a voice in the workplace; that’s what puts downward pressure on wages in low-skilled jobs.

Most Americans do want immigration fixed. They reject a system that leaves families terrified of separation because they fear deportation of undocumented moms, dads, brothers, and sisters, even if they’ve resided in the United States for decades and have jobs and (otherwise) clean criminal records. Cotton doesn’t mention any of this. He instead laments a “generation-long influx of low-skilled immigrants that undermines American workers.”

The real problem isn’t immigration, it’s a legal framework that leaves all low-wage workers and millions of migrant workers—both authorized and unauthorized—vulnerable to wage theft and exploitation. We have allowed employers to race to the bottom toward lower and lower labor standards.

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March 7: Entry-level workers’ wages fell in lost decade

Figure BFigure B (continued)

Entry-level wages of male and female college graduates

Other media outlets and blogs that have covered the data include BBC News, Forbes, Gawker, Huffington Post, In These Times, MarketPlace RadioNational Journal, PoliticoReuters, Village Voice, and the Washington Post.