Wage War: New Charts Explain Why Americans Are So Broke

Charts provided by the website Visualizing Economics supply a visual answer to the question, "What happened to Wages?"

Looking past the prior few decades as most studies do, Catherine Mulbrandon takes us back to the year 1800 to get the long view of decline. Her simple explanation of what has happened to workers reads as follows:

Over the last couple of centuries there has been a steady increase in wages for both unskilled workers and production workers. A lot of this growth is a result of the increases in worker productivity due the industrial revolution of the late 1770s and 1800s. However, over the last 40 years, this long-term growth has stopped or slowed down even though the GDP per person continues to grow. At the same time, the growth rate of GDP per worker has slowed compared to the overall growth of the economy.

All of the charts are fascinating and well designed but two are worth an extra look.  

First, this look at the Service Industry. The Washington Post describes:

Average wages for finance, health, and education have risen steadily over the past three decades. Information services took a dip in the 1970s but has risen of late. Meanwhile, average wages in transportation have dropped — particularly after deregulation of the trucking and airline industries in the 1970s:

Also of note is the chart (at top) which tackles wage trends of for construction, manufacturing, and mining.  All three have made major plunges since the 1970s.  Manufacturing’s demise has remained constant for decades with little fluctuation or hope of a return to previous levels.

All of these data graphics come from Mulbrandon’s new book, An Illustrated Guide to Income in the United States, is available on her website.

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