Friday, September 19, 2014

AMERICAN WORKER- Why the Struggle to Share Prosperity

"Why the typical worker is struggling to share U.S. prosperity" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The U.S. Census Bureau has been releasing a lot of new data this week on income, poverty and economic growth.  Much of it, unfortunately, confirms again what many Americans already know and deal with on a day-to-day basis.  That is that real incomes are not moving up appreciably.

The country’s median household income in 2013 was $51,939, up $180 from the year before, but still below where it was prior to the great recession.  There was some good news.  The official poverty rate fell slightly to 14.5 percent.  And it was the largest drop in child poverty in a single year since the 1960s.  The growth in family household incomes was also better than for households with singles or roommates.

Sheldon Danziger is the president of the Russell Sage Foundation, which closely studies these issues.

And, Sheldon Danziger, welcome to the NewsHour.

Let me start by asking you, as we said, some good news along with the bad news.  Why don’t you explain the good news first?

SHELDON DANZIGER, Russell Sage Foundation:  Well, the good news is that the economy is recovering slowly.

As you mentioned, poverty has declined somewhat.  There is an increase in the number of people working full-time full-year.  And, clearly, those are good signs the unemployment rate has been falling.

But, again, the bad news is, prosperity is no longer widely shared when the economy grows.  And so the typical family, whether we’re talking about earnings of full-time workers or the household incomes of families are no better than they were before the recession, and it’s been almost 15 years with not much progress for the middle- and lower-income groups.
JUDY WOODRUFF:  Another thing I was struck by is that you told us, you said, we’re living in an economy where a rising tide no longer lifts all boats.

SHELDON DANZIGER:  That’s correct.

And in the great American boom, which lasted from the end of World War II to the early ’70s, everyone, whether it was the factory worker, the factory manager or the corporation owner, did very well.  And real income, that is incomes adjusted for inflation, across the distribution rose rapidly and pretty much in unison.

That was a period of rapidly declining poverty and slightly falling inequality.  And, unfortunately, we now live in a world in which the global economy and the U.S. economy are very different.

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