My answer to Why is the middle class struggling in the United States?
Answer by Ken Larson:
The following is the best analysis I have seen of the struggle you have questioned. It was written in 2013 and not much has chanted appreciably in my view.
“THE MIDDLE CLASS – AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY BY THE NUMBERS”
“Minneapolis Star Tribune” – Steven B. Young
“Without a middle class, there's no cultural ballast to steady the government against clashing passions.
In recent decades, changing economic realities have reduced the size and hopes of America’s middle class.
Americans living in middle-class neighborhoods in the 117 largest metropolitan areas have declined in numbers. In 1970, they comprised 65 percent of the population; now, it’s 44 percent. Over those 43 years, Americans living in the poor neighborhoods grew from 15 percent of residents to 30 percent, while Americans living in the rich neighborhoods (increasingly exurbs) grew from 7 percent to 14 percent.
Thus our socioeconomic profile has bifurcated — the extremes have grown at the expense of the middle.
In 1980, the top 10 percent of Americans took home a third of national income. In 2011, they gathered in 48.2 percent of income. The top 1 percent of Americans took in 10 percent of national income in 1980 and 20 percent in 2011. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the top 1 percent of Americans have taken in 95 percent of all income gains.
Meanwhile, fewer Americans are working. In June, only 42 percent of Americans had a full-time job, and only 58.7 percent of the civilian adult population was working.
In 2007, there were 121.7 million full-time jobs and 24.8 million part-time jobs. Today, there are 117.7 million full-time jobs and 24.4 million part-time jobs. Over the last six months, 97 percent of net job creation was for part-time work.
Wages for males who work full time have stagnated in real terms since 1973. In 1975, the average hourly wage in manufacturing was $20 (expressed in today’s dollars); last year, the figure was only $18.50.
A “bad” job has been defined as one making under $37,000 per year in 2010 dollars. In 1979, 18 percent of working Americans had such “bad” jobs. In 2010, 24 percent did.
Jobs with median hourly wages of less than $14 provided 60 percent of all job growth between 2008 and 2010.
Today, only 58 percent of national income is paid out in wages. The average since World War II has been 63 percent. The difference costs each worker about $5,000 a year.
The top 10 percent of Americans owns 80 percent of all financial assets. After the Great Recession, median household wealth dropped 36.1 percent, while net wealth for the top 1 percent dropped only 11.1 percent.
The contributions of middle classes to social health and political justice come through their actions, which reflect values, beliefs and cultural dispositions inculcated in families.
The increasing chasm between wealthy and poor has only made it harder for those born in low-income families to rise above their parents’ position. Average wealth for Americans in their mid-30s today has dropped 21 percent compared with their parents, as their debt from education and lifestyles has increased.”