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The Economic Policy Institute’s vision is an economy that is just and strong, sustainable, and equitable — where every job is good, every worker can join a union, and every family and community can thrive.

About EPI. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank working for the last 30 years to counter rising inequality, low wages and weak benefits for working people, slower economic growth, unacceptable employment conditions, and a widening racial wage gap. We intentionally center low- and middle-income working families in economic policy discussions at the federal, state, and local levels as we fight for a world where every worker has access to a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, retirement security, and a union.

We also know that research on its own is not enough—that’s why we intentionally pair our research with effective outreach and advocacy efforts as we fight to make concrete change in everyday people’s lives.

EPI’s vision for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The Economic Policy Institute’s vision is for all workers to share equally in the economic prosperity of our country. Our research exposes the forces that seek to exclude and diminish the power of people of color and women—particularly Black, Brown, and indigenous people—to the benefit of white supremacy and wealthy elites. We recognize the economic legacy of anti-Blackness; slavery; colonialization; oppressive policies, practices, and institutions; and the persistence of structural racism, sexism, and xenophobia today. Therefore, our vision elevates the importance of racial, gender, and worker justice as central to the world we want to see. 

A Window of Opportunity

The U.S. economy has deep and enduring systemic inequities that preclude many working people from sharing equally in our country’s prosperity. Inequality has skyrocketed over the last 45 years. The pay of the top 1% of earners grew by over 200%, while the earnings of working people grew at a fraction of that rate, and the racial wage gap widened. [Productivity and typical-worker pay gap widened dramatically since 1979. Source and additional information]

Productivity-Pay Gap

The gap between productivity and a typical worker’s compensation has increased dramatically since 1979: Productivity growth and hourly compensation growth, 1948–2022

Year Effective TEP, net Non-supervisory compensation
1948   45.98 48.24
1949 46.94 51.06
1950 50.51 53.04
1951 51.49 53.76
1952 52.65 55.15
1953 54.61 57.84
1954 55.83 59.26
1955 59.33 61.79
1956 60.32 64.20
1957 61.78 65.56
1958 62.99 66.19
1959 65.53 68.06
1960 66.57 69.55
1961 68.76 70.72
1962 71.43 72.75
1963 73.95 74.08
1964 76.38 81.16
1965 79.04 83.25
1966 81.35 84.42
1967 82.48 85.78
1968 85.43 88.13
1969 86.15 89.97
1970 87.78 91.30
1971 91.63 93.81
1972 95.34 98.86
1973 96.94 98.75
1974 94.13 96.57
1975 96.77 96.53
1976 99.15 97.80
1977 100.10 99.68
1978 101.28 101.21
1979 100.00 100.00
1980 97.29 97.33
1981 99.02 96.99
1982 98.13 97.18
1983 101.14 97.62
1984 103.55 96.91
1985 105.24 96.53
1986 107.76 97.15
1987 107.18 95.90
1988 108.62 95.54
1989 109.40 95.57
1990 109.75 94.76
1991 110.46 94.59
1992 114.76 95.21
1993 115.23 95.27
1994 116.26 95.52
1995 116.33 95.06
1996 117.78 95.12
1997 119.57 96.18
1998 122.04 98.47
1999 124.75 99.82
2000 126.18 100.31
2001 127.57 101.74
2002 131.34 103.74
2003 135.56 104.77
2004 139.40 104.35
2005 141.46 103.84
2006 142.03 104.00
2007 143.21 104.79
2008 142.09 104.81
2009 147.56 108.86
2010 151.86 109.78
2011 150.11 108.41
2012 150.19 107.40
2013 151.76 108.41
2014 152.36 108.72
2015 154.90 110.45
2016 155.47 111.38
2017 156.59 111.56
2018 157.95 112.27
2019 159.95 113.83
2020 165.91 117.61
2021 168.77 117.09
2022 164.66 114.83


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Notes: Data are for compensation (wages and benefits) of production/nonsupervisory workers in the private sector and net productivity of the total economy. “Net productivity” is the growth of output of goods and services less depreciation per hour worked.

Source: EPI analysis of unpublished Total Economy Productivity data from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Labor Productivity and Costs program, wage data from the BLS Current Employment Statistics, BLS Employment Cost Trends, BLS Consumer Price Index, and Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts.

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Despite steady economic growth, the American dream of a good job, a comfortable home, quality health care, a good education, and a secure retirement remains out of reach for tens of millions. This is no accident. It is the result of decades of policies that favor the interests of corporations and the wealthy over those of the vast majority.

Still, there are bright spots amid these troubling data points. Public support for unions is at a near 50-year high—thanks in part to our long-time advocacy of workers’ power and their right to organize. And more than just organizing, from Los Angeles to Detroit, labor unions are flexing their power and winning. The Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign has broken into the mainstream, and there is a growing focus on the yawning inequality we see between the uber-rich and the working class. Further—and driven in no small part by the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) leadership on the issue—federal policymakers have shifted toward macroeconomic policies that keep unemployment very low, a game-changing shift for working people.

In this moment, it is imperative that we act. We must produce cutting-edge research and advocate for structural changes and policy interventions that will benefit workers and their families.

Embedded in our work is an acknowledgement that not everyone faces the same challenges. Accordingly, we apply an intersectional lens to all that we do and interrogate how class, race, ethnicity, and gender affect working people.

We have seven strategic priorities:

1. Advance racial and gender justice: At EPI, we know that equity is essential to economic justice. Through our Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE), EPI works to win policies that eliminate gaps in wages, income, and unemployment rates; improve economic outcomes across race, ethnicity, and gender; promote unionization as a means to advance racial and gender equity; and dismantle structural racism and institutional sexism. Our groundbreaking resource guide helps our partners advance anti-racist research and policy.

In 2023, we conducted original research to help build the case for policies that center the wellbeing of economically vulnerable families and children of color, and we informed more equitable economic and public health policies that help to advance our racial equity and racial justice goals. One report, Chasing the Dream, examined how in the 60 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, little progress has been made in removing barriers to the full equitable integration of Black Americans into the U.S. economy.

2. Strengthen labor standards and protect workers’ freedom to join together in a union: EPI is a tireless voice for policies that strengthen workers’ job quality and economic security; raise the minimum wage; and create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.

EPI has also built a compelling, evidence-based case for the importance of unions and other forms of worker power. We advocate for laws that protect workers’ freedom to form unions and bolster worker organizing campaigns with research and policy. EPI shows that advances in unionization are important not just for the power that unions have in helping all workers use their collective voice for change, but also for their proven ability to help raise the wages of Black workers and close the Black-white wage gap.

3. Make the economy work for working families: EPI believes that families must have robust supports including: fair scheduling and paid leave that allows them to take care of their loved ones; affordable and accessible childcare, long-term care, and elder care which compensates care workers fairly; dignity and economic security in retirement; and a robust unemployment insurance system which expands automatically when it is needed most.

EPI’s well-known Family Budget Calculator helps policymakers, advocates, and the public understand the income a family needs to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living, and EPI’s research on care workers has helped national and state partners advance campaigns to improve the quality of care and the living standards of care workers.

4. Fortify the public sector: EPI champions a robust public sector which protects and supports workers and their families. At the federal level, we analyze fiscal policy, revenue proposals, and spending and deficit projections as we advocate for progressive taxation to fund a robust public sector and strong social insurance programs. At every level, we work to ensure governments have the capacity to enforce laws protecting workers; deliver vital public services, including public education; invest in infrastructure and climate resilience; administer safety net and social insurance programs; and protect our democracy. EPI also advocates for policies that work to strengthen and expand the right of public sector workers to unionize.

5. Ensure climate and industrial policy centers workers: EPI promotes economic growth that is strong and equitable, but also clean and sustainable. EPI will champion industrial and climate policies that benefit workers and their communities; trade policies which boost investments in key sectors and restore bargaining power to workers; and investments that increase the supply and reduce the prices of housing.

Right now, progressives have a historic opportunity to use industrial policy to steer resources stemming from the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to accomplish the economic justice goals we’ve long fought for, including: building worker power; strengthening labor standards; and advancing racial, gender, and climate justice.

Together, these bills establish more than 160 entirely new programs, impact hundreds of existing programs, and infuse billions of dollars into the economy. We must take advantage of these myriad opportunities and ensure these funds and programs are implemented successfully at the state and local levels and in an equitable, pro-worker manner.

Tying industrial policy to mandates that increase worker bargaining power and advance racial and gender equity is crucial. Linking industrial policy to labor standards and institutions has a rich and successful history in the United States and the current moment offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lean into that history.

6. Shape the narrative on technology’s impact on workers: Though often blamed for workers’ distress, technological change has generally benefited working people and led to rising wages over time. Since its founding, EPI’s research has counteracted narratives that scapegoat technological change as a driver of weak wage growth, highlighting that such arguments are often a deliberate distraction from the policy decisions that actually drive wage suppression by shifting power to employers. EPI will establish a forward-looking framework for assessing when technology is likely to be used as a tool for wage suppression and when it can be used to boost workers’ productivity and leverage, steering the conversation toward proactive solutions.

7. Spearhead a progressive approach to macroeconomics: EPI has long advocated that macroeconomic policymakers should use all levers at their disposal to keep unemployment low. The Federal Reserve Board should set interest rates that achieve both stable inflation and maximum employment. When the Fed’s tools aren’t enough to generate full employment, Congress must step in with robust relief and recovery measures to generate vigorous job growth. The fruits of EPI’s work can be seen in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In stark contrast to the austerity policies in the aftermath of the Great Recession that led to a decade of elevated unemployment, the Biden Administration successfully made several large fiscal investments that helped generate one of the strongest recoveries on record.

EPI will continue to call on policymakers to use all available tools to maintain tight labor markets. We will also advocate for policies to slash exorbitant CEO pay and work to counter claims that tax cuts for wealthy households and corporations spur economic growth.

As we advance our work in these seven areas, EPI is reshaping the narrative on the economy, countering harmful narratives, and advancing our vision for an economy that is equitable, strong, and sustainable. We do so by advocating progressive, proactive economic justice policies in Congress and in state legislatures; creating deep partnerships with national, state, local, and grassroots allies; and ensuring that our rigorous research continues to be cited in thousands of media outlets and shared on social media

EPI in the States

At the state level, EPI’s Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) of 57 research, policy, and advocacy groups is at the forefront of battles for stronger labor standards; increases in worker bargaining power; higher pay for teachers and public sector workers; and racial, gender, and economic justice across the country.

Importantly, EPI works with and for people in 45 states and D.C. to address key issues of local concern. In the South, that means co-creating an economic agenda for worker, racial, and gender justice that prioritizes Black and brown workers. In the Midwest, EARN granted funds to five state partnerships in Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin to work on issues ranging from labor standards enforcement to universal basic income—and successfully battled wage theft in IA and OH. And recently, EARN committed to provide $400,000 grants to five state partnerships over two years to advance policies that improve economic justice for children and families. This is but a sampling of EARN’s state- and local-level work and impact in communities.

Our Opportunity

The stakes have never been higher. We are living in a time of sharp ideological division, deep racial injustice, and profound economic inequality. Our very democracy is at risk. At the same time, major federal investments into clean energy innovation, along with a broad and growing interest in organizing for worker power, racial justice, and a fairer economy, have created enormous opportunities for progress. There is much work to do to ensure these investments are made equitably and that the Black and brown communities who have disproportionately experienced the harm of structural racism benefit from these investments.

To reach the program goals above, EPI has an operating budget of $13.3 million in 2024 and needs to raise $2 million in new funds. These resources will be used to expand EPI’s capacity to influence organizing and policy at the federal, state, and local level; support staff; and regrant funds to state EARN groups and grassroots partners.

A Bit of History

EPI provides visionary solutions and leadership. EPI was the first—and remains the premier—think tank to focus on the economic condition of low- and middle-income Americans and their families. EPI shapes public policy on the federal and state level through compelling research and innovative ideas. We are recognized as national leaders on breakthrough liberal economic policies. Our encyclopedic State of Working America, published 12 times since 1988, and in complete electronic form as well, is stocked in university libraries around the world. In the 1990s EPI researchers were the first to illustrate the decoupling of productivity and pay in the U.S. economy, a trend now widely recognized as a key element of growing economic inequality. EPI changed the nature of public debates over international trade agreements by underscoring their effects on workers and the importance of putting enforceable labor standards in trade agreements.

EPI research associate and Yale university professor Jacob Hacker developed the concept of the public option—the idea that the government would provide health insurance and compete with private insurers to assure robust competition. EPI’s analysis has also shaped the way the economy is viewed. For instance, EPI researchers were the first ones to profile the emerging gap between growing productivity and the wages and compensation of typical workers. An EPI economist was the first to compute the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings—the job-seekers-to-job-openings ratio—a commonsense way to help the public understand the difficulty of finding a job. EPI has long profiled the stagnation of workers’ wages, the deterioration of job quality, and rising inequalities. EPI also oversaw the formation of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) of nearly sixty state and regional multi-issue research, policy, and advocacy organizations.

EPI has focused, and continues to focus unrelentingly and unfailingly, on the dynamics of wage stagnation for most workers and rising inequality and on what can be done to halt and reverse these trends.

EPI’s research is cutting-edge, original, and reliable, and it spans a broad range of economic issues. EPI analyses are a trusted resource for policymakers, those in the media, national progressive advocacy organizations, and state research organizations. EPI conducts original research according to rigorous standards of objectivity and, as a result, is a reliable source of information and analysis. In-house researchers maintain their standing in the academic community by publishing findings in prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals and by delivering public lectures, speeches, and testimony. Our methods for ensuring our research methodologies are exemplary and include the use of highly qualified researchers and reviews by outside experts from across the ideological spectrum.

EPI has world-class expertise. Our team includes the best minds in economics and other disciplines. Our broad network of researchers and scholars has made EPI the authoritative source on the economic well-being of working Americans. EPI’s staff includes ten Ph.D.-level economists and a number of other experts with advanced degrees in sociology, public policy, and law. Our staff also includes 13 policy analysts and research assistants, and a full communications and outreach staff.

How we do it. EPI produces numerous research papers and policy analyses; sponsors conferences and seminars; briefs policymakers at all levels of government; provides technical support to national, state, and local constituency and advocacy organizations; testifies before national, state, and local legislatures; and provides information and background to the media. In a typical year, EPI is cited in the media more than 20,000 times and is mentioned and/or our staff are seen or heard by over 300 million people on television and radio.

Who supports us. EPI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Almost two-thirds of our funding comes in the form of foundation grants, while around one-fifth is from labor unions. EPI also receives support from individuals, corporations, and other organizations. See the figure below. A current list of EPI donors and a statement of our funding and disclosure principles is available here.

Sources of EPI funding in 2021

Source Share of funding
Foundations 79%
Labor Unions 14%
Corporations/Organizations 2%
Individuals 3%
Other 2%

Other resources