The combination of stagnant wages and inflation has made it harder and harder for the poor and middle class to keep their heads above water. A new study by the Economic Policy Institute reveals what they’ve had to do to survive.
Between 1979 and 2016, only a quarter of the growth in income for the bottom fifth of earners was due to rising wages. Most came from working longer and longer hours. On average, prime-age Americans put in 7.6% more hours at work per year in 2016 than in 1979. Those in the middle class worked 9.4% more hours, and those in the bottom fifth worked a stunning 24.3% more hours. In other words, if they were working 40 hours a week in 1979, they were working nearly 50 hours a week by 2016.
This is why a raise of a couple of dollars an hour and a $1000 bonus might be “pathetic crumbs” to Nancy Pelosi, but to working Americans, it’s a long-overdue godsend. Rep. Pelosi probably can’t even fathom the idea of having to work so many more hours to make ends meet. But then, I’d rather she not think about it too hard. I really don’t want to give her the idea of putting in even more hours doing what she does.