Labor Day Reports Show Long-Term Income, Wealth Decline

08/31/2012; Tula Connell

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Several new economic reports out in time for Labor Day point to long-term trends that are driving a declining standard of living for America’s middle- and low-income workers. Here’s a quick summary (click on charts to expand).

Middle-class incomes have declined over the past decades. For the past several decades, the share of the economic pie that the middle class receives has decreased and fewer people have earned middle-class incomes, according to the Center for American Progress. “Moreover, the costs of middle-class basics have risen and debt levels have increased.”

The center’s “5 Charts on the State of the Middle Class” offers downloadable versions of each chart.  Continue reading “Labor Day Reports Show Long-Term Income, Wealth Decline”

Union membership down, income inequality up

Union membership down, income inequality up

By August 30, 2012: 9:22 AM ET

The decline of union membership has been a key driver of income inequality in recent decades, a new report found.

The drop in unionization accounts for roughly a third of the growth in wage inequality among men and a fifth among women between 1973 and 2007, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

The share of the workforce represented by unions declined from 26.7% in 1973 to 13.1% in 2011. This contributed to the increase in inequality by lowering wages for middle class workers, according to EPI.

A non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report last year showed that the average household income for the nation’s top 1% more than tripled, while middle-class incomes grew by less than 40% between 1979 to 2007.

The pullback in unionization has also been a primary cause of the growing wage gap between white- and blue-collar men, as well as between college-educated and high school-educated men.

“Unions reduce wage inequalities because they raise wages more at the bottom and in the middle of the wage scale than at the top,” said Lawrence Mishel, EPI’s president.

Declining unionization has hurt men more than women because men were more likely to have been in unions in their heyday.

Union workers are paid a premium of 13.6% thanks to their collective bargaining contracts, according to EPI.

Blacks and Hispanics enjoy premiums of 17.3% and 23.1%, respectively, while whites have a 10.9% bump. Men see a 17.3% premium and women 9.1%.

This advantage is calculated by comparing hourly wages between union and non-union workers who are otherwise comparable in terms of experience, education, industry and other factors.