Stagnating Wages but Increasing Incomes

More excerpts from An Illustrated Guide to Income in the United States (Pages 66, 68, 69) .

In my previous post, I looked at wages, showing that for many occupations, they have not kept up with the overall growth of the economy. But what about the growing number households with incomes well above the national average of $67,500? (Focus on the orange lines/area in the 3 graphs below)

Click on the images for a closer look. This will open a lightbox the same size as the browser window.

In 1945, less than 10% of family households had incomes above $80,000 (adjusted for inflation) steadily increasing to 30% in the late 1990s. They continued to increase up until 2000 even while wages flatten or dropped.

Looking at the bottom graph, the number of family households with two earners grew and surpassed number of single earner household in the late 1960s. This growth mirrors the growth of families with $80,000 or more a year. One can easily assume that second earner in these households were women as women entered the labor force in larger numbers boosting their family's income. 

Note: Single people living alone are not included in "Family Households," bottom graph, but are included in "All Households," top graph.

In 2010, 72% of the households with income above $80,000 a year have two or more earners compared to 41% of households with income between $30,000 and $80,000. It is this increase in the number of two-earner households that accounts for household incomes increasing when wages have not. 

To learn more about Income in the US buy or read the book.


Data for households came from the US Census

US Census Bureau. “Historical Income Tables: Households.” June 2011.

US Census Bureau. “Table HINC-01. Selected Characteristics of Households, by Total Money Income in 2010.” 2012.

 (See bibliography for additional data) 


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