February 23, 2019

The Great Recession Dealt a Double Blow to the Middle Class

“The economy looks to be on a roll, if recent releases of economic indicators are anything to go by. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low. Job growth has been averaging over 200,000 per month. Inflation-adjusted median household income has been climbing sharply for the past three years.

The numbers suggest that the Great Recession is finally behind us. But some people aren’t feeling it, especially if they happen to be in the middle class. Indeed, recent reports have suggested some lingering middle malaise may reflect an urban versus rural divide, or a split of superstar cities versus everyone else. What if the Great Recession did not just affect some areas of the country worse than others, it also affected the middle class differently than the top or bottom in those areas?…

While wages are up for everyone, the gains have been far from equal. It is not too surprising that wage growth was highest in the top quintile—this element of economic polarization is now well known. Wage growth was also reasonably robust at the bottom, above 6 percent, as several minimum wage increases at the national and state levels took effect. However, wage growth in the middle quintiles, especially the second and third, was much weaker. The result is that wages at the bottom and middle have been pushed closer together, while wages at the top have pulled away from everyone else.”

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