10/18/11

Top 10% take ALL income growth 1971-2008

The Economic Policy Institute has put together an amazing, interactive chart on American incomes, which allows you to see who got what over different time periods from 1917 until 2008.

For the period before the rise of the US industrial labour movement (1917-1936), the top 10% took all of the average income increase.

But during the rise of the U.S. industrial labour movement from 1936 to 1971 the top 10% of income earners got 29% of total income growth, while the bottom 90% got 71% of income growth.  Still far from fair, but better than before -- and after.

From1971 to 2008, a period coinciding with the decline of the US labour movement, the top 10% of income earners got 100% of income growth, while the bottom 90% saw a decline in their income!  


The decline in income wasn't because the economy got worse from 1971 to 2008 -- far from it.  Average income actually went up $9,965 per year.  It was just that the top 10% got ALL of the growth in income.

Even over the period 1998-2008, when average US incomes declined by $458, the top 10% got an increase!

One more thing: average income went up $38,216 in the 91 years between 1917 and 2008.  Most of that ($27,861 or 73% of the total increase) was achieved in the 35 years between 1936 and 1971.

The USA got most of its income growth when income increases were shared more fairly and when unions were more powerful.

Here is the link to the interactive chart -- it is well worth exploring.

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