WAGE GROWTH….Tyler Cowen suggests that U.S. wage growth hasn’t been quite as bad as liberals make it out to be:
It is true that median wage growth has been slower than usual over the last thirty years. But it’s not quite the grim picture it is often made out to be….For the last thirty years, twenty-eight percent growth in median wages is the best available estimate. Don’t let anyone tell you it is zero or negative.
Well….sort of. It’s true that the overall median wage has increased modestly over the past three decades, and if you add in benefits the increase is a few points higher still. But as the chart above shows, even the sluggish increase Tyler talks about is entirely due to one thing: the improving status of women in the workplace. That’s good news on its own account, of course, and it’s also good news for family incomes, but there’s a flip side: the incomes of men really have stagnated. If you compare apples to apples — men aged 35-44 working full time — median income doubled in the three decades after WWII and has declined in the three decades since then. If you add in benefits, growth has been about zero.
Interpret this how you will. But for a very large segment of the population — and the one for which long-term trends depend most strongly on economic fundamentals — wage growth has indeed been “zero or negative.” We should be trying to figure out why.