September 17, 2019

"Wage Stagnation" Is a Myth

“Perhaps the most common indictment of America’s legendary prosperity is wage stagnation. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees peaked in October 1972 at $23.26 (in 2019 dollars) and were at that same level in March 2019. But do these numbers remotely describe the life you have lived over the past 45 years, or square in any way with numerous official measures of changes in what Americans actually own and consume? In short, should you believe your eyes or government data?

Compared with 1972, American homes today are much more spacious and modern. The proportion of homes today that have two or more rooms per person is up 33.5%. The share of homes with two or more bathrooms has more than doubled; central air-conditioning is more than three times as common; and the share of homes that have dishwashers is up by more than two-thirds. Most homes in 1972 had televisions, but only about half were color sets. Today they are all color and most are flat screens in high definition, attached to cable or satellites. The average home in 1972 had at least one phone, but none had cellphones or internet access.

Kitchens today are stocked with a far wider array of foods, including out-of-season fruits brought from half a world away and a vast variety of prepared foods. Compared with 1972, this abundance costs an ever smaller portion of families’ budgets, freeing up some $3,200 on average to spend on other things.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"‘Great-power competition” is increasingly a central concern in Washington foreign-policy circles. The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy warns that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode..."

"Just to be sure I heard it correctly, I replayed former vice president Joe Biden’s eye-popping gaffe from Thursday night’s debate instructing poor parents to put the record player on to help their children learn. “#Record player” was trending on..."

"For many people, getting away from it all means decamping to a cabin in the woods or a house by the beach. Soon there may be another option: lifting off to a hotel serenely orbiting high above the planet. Though space hotels have long belonged..."

"I didn’t lead a life of any particular hardship growing up, but as a kid in New York in the 1980s, I did have to do without certain things that many of today’s middle-class parents deem essential — a yard, for example — and my dad tells me..."

"Not too long ago, the “gig economy” looked as if it just might be the future of work in America.The rapid rise of digital platforms that let people earn money by driving passengers, delivering groceries, walking dogs or running errands for..."

""The Goldfinch" has a painting at its center, but despite a classy palette of ingredients conjures a lifeless, disjointed picture. Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the movie represents a transparent bid to bring the book's prestige..."

"To make sense of what's going on as Israelis head to the polls Tuesday, one would need to be part mathematician and part psychologist. Determining who will sit with who in a prospective coalition is like choosing sides at a schoolyard pick-up..."

"It’s humiliating to consider the things we know instead of the things we should know. I can’t tell you exactly how the Michigan Republicans are trying to illegally gerrymander their state, but I know why Lana Del Rey is angry on Twitter. So it..."