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How much Americans make in wages (howmuch.net)
164 points by LiweiZ 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 205 comments



I feel this a lot in my own family. I’m in tech at a fairly privileged BigCo. Siblings work retail gigs for a small fraction of what I bring home. I’ve had raises and bonuses equal to what one of my siblings makes in a year.


"The authors write that "the incomes of the top 1% collectively made up 11% of national income in 1980, but now constitute above 20% of national income, while the 20% of US national income that was attributable to the bottom 50% in 1980 has fallen to just 12% today.

Further, "while average pre-tax income for the bottom 50% has stagnated at around $16,000 since 1980, the top 1% has experienced 300% growth in their incomes to approximately $1,340,000 in 2014. This has increased the average earnings differential between the top 1% and the bottom 50% from 27 times in 1980 to 81 times today."

https://www.businessinsider.com/income-inequality-us-economy...

The Financial Times recently published this, which may also be of interest: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2018/01/04/2197227/eight-charts-...


These numbers are all I need to know to realize that something is going wrong with our economy. It's fine that some people make more than others but it's bad that the balance shifts more and more to the top.


You're saying you care nothing for the absolutes and only consider relative wealth.

Granted, it's not the case in reality, but all the numbers in the the post you're responding to are compatible with a world where the wealth of the poorest members of society has doubled (or even increased tenfold) over the same time period.


So we have an economy that produces a lot of wealth but if most of it goes to the top it's not really helpful for the rest. In my opinion it's much healthier for an economy if gains are more widely distributed so relative wealth is very important in the long run. Otherwise we are building up a new aristocracy.


globalization only benefits the rich. They can arbitrage labor and then keep the difference in profit. The supposed lowering of cost to make up for job loss and wage reduction didn't happen


The lowering of costs did happen, but it didn't tickle down, because tickle down economics is an asinine model and the rich would rather have those profits for themselves.

Greed is a weird thing, if you listen to 1% bankers you can hear after a point it's not actually about making more money for the money's sake, it's making more money than your peers.

Toxic hypercompetetive culture.


Superstar effects are a much bigger deal.

Before you were the best artist / programmer / chef in your small town. Today you or your company sells to the world. #1 / #2 takes most/all, everyone else loses.

Sorry but that's just the nature of the world today.


> Sorry but that's just the nature of the world today.

It doesn't have to be. The historic balance of power is that the rich need rule of law to stay rich. And rule of law requires participation of the majority. So the rich have to appease the mob in order to keep their riches (and their heads). I don't think we're anywhere near the tipping point of this equation in the U.S. But it's always there as an option of last resort for the disenfranchised.


> globalization only benefits the rich.

What about jobs people get in developing countries and get them out of poverty?


Don't forget mass immigration.


However the top 20% pay over 80% of the taxes.


“You might be so broke you need to work two jobs and still can’t afford healthcare, education, or rent. But look on the bright side: you pay less taxes than the guys who have all the money!”


How are you working 2 jobs but cant afford rent...? Even at minimum wage you should easily be able to cover it. Unless your trying to support a whole family on that wage, in which case its a whole different discussion about the irresponsibility of starting a family before being ready.


So? That will always be true for any income tax, except for one so regressive it amounts to a poll tax. It's close to being true for most other kinds of taxes as well. There's always going to be some number for which you could make such a statement. Since inequality of tax is directly related to inequality of income, all you're really proving is that income is much more concentrated than ability is, i.e. that we do not live in a meritocracy, that the rich get richer primarily due to the mechanics of the system instead of by exhibiting merit. However progressive our tax system is, it's clearly far outweighed by the regressive mechanics built in to the rest of the system.


If the top 20% pay 80% of taxes and still walk with a net of 100k and the bottom 50% pay no taxes and walk with a net of 30k, I would much rather be in the top 20%.


It's not surprising to learn that the top sliver of society pays most of the taxes, given that they earn close to half of all income.


They could lower their tax rate by taking a smaller share of the profits.


Out of curiosity, do you subsidize your siblings? I'm going to be in the same situation and I'm not sure what I'm going to end up doing but I think I'm going to end up doing it.


Yeah, moderately. This year I gave about $7k to each sibling which is life-changing for them and not really a hardship for me other than slightly delaying my home-ownership goal.

For one sibling, I'm the safety net when crises happen that they can't afford. E.g. can't come up with their car insurance deductible, water heater broke, etc. They don't ask but I always offer when it's clear that a small outlay would spare a huge amount of stress for everyone. Because what am I going to do, let these very minor issues send their financial life spiraling out of control? Of course not.

Other sibling is more financially responsible and trying to work through college part-time. I'm paying the car payment and car insurance while they go because I am 100% on board with this self-improvement plan. I proposed this because these expenses were keeping them from enrolling and I think it's in my own financial interest to invest in broadening the base of financial stability in my family.

Other context: My dad has a decent job (government job paying ~$80k/yr in small town America) but mom is a lunatic when it comes to money so they have nothing saved. Her idea of being able to afford something is being able to afford the payments. So far I haven't had to bail them out but only because my dad is too proud to ask and would rather go to his mother whenever there is a budget crunch.

Edit to add: I see lots of people saying things along the lines of "keep money and family separate". That is a very privileged attitude. It's very hard to enjoy money when people you love are going through hardships that would be solved by an infusion of cash. Obviously it's important not to give more than you can afford but you would be surprised by the number of people in tech who are sending money home in one way or another.


In my language (Marathi), we have a phrase for this which can be translated as "from the bowl into the plate". The intention is to expand the meaning of "me" to include people that matter. Then you no longer think of the money that you give out as a loan or a gift; you're merely spending it on your extended self.

I was afforded the "luxury" of doing a PhD instead of getting a job out of college because my older brother was working and assumed the financial responsibility of the house. Now I work too, and if the occasion arises, I am happy to part with reasonable sums of money without even thinking of whether it is meant to be repaid or not.


This idea really resonates with me, and is a notion I've been working through without really having words that express it.

Could you share the untranslated phrase if I wanted to read more about it?


The original phrase is "वटीतून ताटात", pronounced as "vaatitun tatat", but with two different sounds for the "t". A "vaati" or "katori" is a small bowl, several of which are placed inside the plate in a meal. The idea is that you are the bowl and your family is the plate; irrespective of whether food is served in the bowl or the plate, finally you are the one who enjoys it.


You are a good person. Money is really good to keep separate though at least for many people I think. I've done similar things like loaned my older brother enough to get through nursing school as he was stocking at Target at 33 and I thought this was a better path. I was better off then but not well off and this cause some strains. When he was doing better it was hard to get him to pay back anything even at 0% interest (I eventually gave up and made it a a gift though wasn't the original intent).

I also loaned my dad basically my life savings to bail out his company which the great recession ended bankrupting him anyway. This caused a strain with our relationship mostly because he felt and continues to feel extremely guilty about it even though I was able to rebuild my savings since then. Now I pay half his rent and try to avoid tying my finances too closely to him to try and avoid his creditors and possible future medicaid clawbacks. Money and family can be tricky.


General advice: treat any “loans” to family or close friends like gifts. Once you hand the money over, imagine it is gone forever.

Then if the loan is paid back, you will be happily surprised. But if it’s not you won’t be bitter about it, and it won’t ruin your relationship.

Corollary: don’t lend your family members an amount of money that would cause you hardship if it’s not paid back. (Obviously extreme circumstances call for careful consideration of the particulars. This is not blanket advice)

YMMV.


This is great advice, I feel. I loaned my sister some money for school, and she made an honest effort to repay me, but started falling back on it after a while. So I just said "consider the rest of the loan a birthday present" and asked her to not pay anymore on it.

Because at the end of the day, I'm not going to let money destroy a relationship, and I gave her that money to relieve her stresses, not to contribute to them. So from now on, if I give money to my family, I let them pay it back according to their conscience and ability. People who need money really don't need more things to worry about.


That's the best advice I can see, and it's how I've always done it. I'll never loan family anything, but I'm glad to gift things if I can afford it.


Strongly agree


> Money and family can be tricky.

Maybe, but on your death bed which one do you think you are going to have the most regrets about?


Abuse of this commonly held notion is what has driven my family apart to make this answer clearer - anyone that abuses familial ties for money is not family. Someone that would abuse the sacred relationship for something as material as temporary funding for selfish purposes is a person that deserves neither money nor love from me.


The way I see it, there can definitely be abuses. But there is certainly a place for helping non-abusers, too. Robert Frost said "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Well, family are the people who, when they genuinely need help, you have to try to give it.


The fact that I didn't impress financial prudence on them when I had the chance?


Edit to add: I see lots of people saying things along the lines of "keep money and family separate". That is a very privileged attitude. It's very hard to enjoy money when people you love are going through hardships that would be solved by an infusion of cash. Obviously it's important not to give more than you can afford but you would be surprised by the number of people in tech who are sending money home in one way or another.

(This is the generic “you”, not you in particular).

I would say don’t let family or anyone else borrow money. If anyone is going through hardships, just give it to them. It makes things a lot easier on them and you both. If you can’t afford to give it to them, don’t put yourself in a position that you are depending on getting the money back.

I’ve found that often, if they can, they will pay you back anyway.


I often think about this.

My parents combined make roughly 30k/yr with little to no retirement savings. They are immigrants (including myself) and neither of them attended high school. They have four children including myself: three girls, one guy (me). My dad, the person who brings in most of the household income, is close to retiring, at least I think he is: he's in his early-mid 60s and has his own gardening business with his own workers. I assume his body is taking a toll or even more so, can't handle the 6am to 7pm, 7 days/wk work days. My mom, on the other hand, is in her late 40s and works as a part-time elementary school supervisor - looking after kids, etc. She recently, as we were joking around this past holiday break, mentioned that I should already get my degree and that fancy new-grad gig so she wouldn't have to work anymore. I laughed it off, secretly wishing I could so immediately.

We, as in our 6 person family, live in a two-bedroom apartment in the Orange County area. My parents have been edging to move to some place cheaper like Perris, to finally be able to achieve that ol' American dream of owning or renting a home. I'm not too fond on the inland empire, and prefer the southern coastal cities of Orange County, etc. I've been wanting to say, "Wait a few years. I'll have a full-time salary job, and I can definitely help you rent a lovely house in a nice, quiet area I think you would all love. I'll send 2.5k/mth and maybe my sisters can help out too." But that's a big commitment to make.

It's difficult. Thinking about this adds a load of pressure on my shoulders, and it's even convoluted with a deep rooted sadness because I think about life and death and their respective lives and feel this what my parents need/want and I can't help them immediately. This might be part of the reason why I've been engulfed in eastern religions and eastern mysticism these past few years, maybe as a coping mechanism. I mean, these are just "cultural" problems. After all, a bed and roof over our head is all that will do fine and dandy. But I don't want to tell my parents that, they probably know it, and despite it, they just want their own perception of a little happiness. Alas, all is well. I hope I play my cards out right these next few years. If not, that's okay too.


I’m from a family of immigrants and still believe in some level of separation between family and money. While I believe in aiding family on the basis of love, I also believe in witholding money on the basis of love as well. For example, if a family member has a substance abuse problem lending them money is not helping them, agreed? The correct action involving money is to help pay for rehab or at most their housing payments if it puts no burden on oneself.

This issue is a very important one because it can strain or break marriages if your spouse does not agree with how money should be treated among family. How one treats money is a part of how they implement their values and morality in general, after all.


"It's very hard to enjoy money when people you love are going through hardships that would be solved by an infusion of cash." True yes, but thats not sustainable and will continue to happen. You arent doing them any actual favors by enabling them to continue on with this same financially irresponsible behavior, you are simply doing it for your own guilt. "You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime"


>It's very hard to enjoy money when people you love are going through hardships that would be solved by an infusion of cash. Obviously it's important not to give more than you can afford but you would be surprised by the number of people in tech who are sending money home in one way or another.

I've seen this time and time again, especially with PoC, who (statistically speaking) have much lower net worth as family units and thus are more susceptible to financial ruin when going through times of hardship


Just realized I am very privileged to have siblings and cousins who all equal or outperform me.


Thank you for sharing all this!


> keep money and family separate". That is a very privileged attitude. It's very hard to enjoy money when people you love...

It’s also privileged to assume family = people you love. My relatives are OK. Some are nice people but I have no interest in them for the most part. Just because we’re related doesn’t carry any obligation to love them or do anything for them.


Don’t you think they migh become codependent? I’d lead them in the right direction, give them advice, etc., but not subsidize, unless they are truly out in the streets.

I can see if it’s your little brother or little sister and helping out with some tuition though.

Also hand-me-downs are okay.


Not everyone has the means or luck to "escape poverty".

I really don't like your implication that it's just "their fault" if they're worse off than you. In a system that is designed to exploit "low skilled" labor.

"Codependent" is a really weird choice of word too.


I have a member as described. Extra money and effort are wasted on them.

Some people do have a good head on their shoulders and just need _some_ help, but not a “subsidy”. Like I said, younger sibling needs some help? Sure. Need some money to tide over rent this one time, ok. No recurring stream though.


Statistically, there are far more earnest people who are hard on their luck than there are people who are pathological grifters.


There are lots of other reasons to not give someone money besides them being a grifter. There’s not feeding their addiction, not enabling them to continue postponing taking action that will improve themselves or their situation beyond the short term. People can be simultaneously earnest and delusional or fearful.


How would that even be statistically quantified?


I took “statistically” to be just a figure of speech to bolster what was simply their view of the world.

However, you probably could interview a few hundred people a label some “earnest,” others “grifters,” and find there are many more of the former.


I felt like this for a long time, until the financial crisis in 2008.

My sister and her family were struggling so badly. Underwater mortgage, lost the house to foreclosure, could barely afford to rent a place. They were discussing having to leave the area (Southern California) moving hours away from grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends, and of course me and my family.

In the end, I bought a house in 2010 specifically for her and her family. I continue to rent it to them at below market rate (They don't cover the morgage payment, but come close), and although we've had a few close calls, they have yet to miss a rent check, and have recovered significantly on their own without further help from me or other family.

There has been zero co-dependence.

Since they pay rent, and take good care of the house, it really has helped them maintain a sense of dignity. I let them treat the house as if it was their own, and they take excellent care of it.

I think this was a better option than just bailing the out. All parties really get something out of it, not to mention the emotional aspect of having close family continue to live close by.


With the current situation in America, there's really no other thing to do.

Yes they might become codependent, but if you look at the situation realistically there's not a lot they can do to change the situation. Being there as a safety net can take a lot of mental pressure off of them.


On the other hand, having family take care each other is a more robust and decentralized system than us all being atomized and being cared for by the state.


> more robust and decentralized system than us all being atomized and being cared for by the state.

Decentralized, sure. Robust? No way. Unless they are wealthy and economically independent, your family are a small number of failures away from not being able to support you. A locally correlated failure ( i.e a plant or industry that employs many of them folds) can knock out the support system. Not to mention that unlike government programs, your family are under no legal obligation to help you.


Here's some robustness for you: our ancestors have been depending on their respective families since humans were a species. Whereas the oldest extant government are only several hundred years old. And many aren't even as old as my grandparents.


> Here's some robustness for you: our ancestors have been depending on their respective families since humans were a species

It's apples-to-oranges to compare a biological definition of robustness at the species level over eons to the definition we use to evaluate the current condition of people in modern societies. They are completely different metrics, operating over different timescales, and measuring totally different phenomena. Your usage measures the survival of humans as a species on biological time scales. The version of robustness that is relevant to the article is the chance of destitution or suffering faced by the typical member of a modern society, given modern society's standards for measuring those.

Wild animal species experience extremely high mortality rates compared to humans, due to a number of factors, including predation, disease, displacement, and environmental changes.

The whole experiment of human "civilization", from animal domestication, to agriculture, to the development of technology and the societal structures needed to support all of those, has been about protecting us from the risks nature poses to our existence.

> Whereas the oldest extant government are only several hundred years old. And many aren't even as old as my grandparents.

Whether it's an extant government is irrelevant. Governments come and go, but their function doesn't remain unfulfilled for long. We know that governments of some kind or another have existed since at least 3000BC, and importantly, that these governments had mechanisms for redistribution of their society's productivity (regardless of the direction of that redistribution).

EDIT: fixed the fallacy name


You'd probably find that ancient humans, just like many animals, formed cooperative groups that weren't limited to family, with children not infrequently cared for by nonfamily. A social safety net is nearly as ancient as life itself and seems to be contributing to the robustness of many lifeforms.


It's not more robust. One bad accident or health bill can ruin the financial stability of an entire family. Diffusing costs across a whole nation is cheaper and more stable than diffusing costs across a handful of people who are related.


"Codependent" means two people are dependent on each other. The word you're looking for is "dependent".


I'm in a current situation and I subsidize emergencies for my immediate family whether it's medical, cars breaking down, or something else.

In context though, they did the same for me when I was poorer than all of them and I do it in return now that I am doing well. I also have an open offer to family to help their first month or two of rent in an expensive area if they are looking for a job there, so that they become part of this safety net.


$0.02. If you're going to subsidize, do it in a way that (1) isn't blatantly monetary, (2) is clearly time limited, (3) is private and the other party can be expected to keep reasonable confidence, and (4) carries with it no expectations (you're not righter because you're paying, pretend you're just burning the money).

E.g. discretely offer to pay X years of tuition, or for a trip, for a nice dinner for the family, or opening and funding an IRA for a year

Disagree with the 'never' remarks. Family is family. If they were there for you, it's laudable to be there for them. Just tread carefully and quietly.

PS: Just to point it out, if someone works hard and you give them more than they would normally make... don't trivialize it, because then you're trivializing what they do every day.


Keep your family and money separate. It usually always ends poorly otherwise.


Sounds like you haven't had to deal with family members in abject poverty before?

My parents can't work, for example. They're both disabled and rely on food stamps plus medicare just to survive. This puts a rather large financial burden on me at times to say the least, because I would rather not see my parents starve to death.

If only we had a government that took better care of people in poverty. Imagine that.


>...If only we had a government that took better care of people in poverty.

Have they tried getting SSDI? No one gets rich off of that, but it is one of the major government programs to help support those with disabilities.


Unfortunately they've tried and were denied.


How, exactly, are they going to starve to death on food stamps? Some sort of fancy medical diet Medicaid isn’t covering?


Because food stamps gives them about 180 dollars a month to feed two people. That's hardly enough to survive a month, especially for two disabled people that also have trouble cooking for themselves.


I think the two terms used by you and the parent don't always overlap neatly: "your family" and "those you love"


Depends on how balanced your family is and who you're giving the money to. Funding a peter pan brother is not the same as funding your retired parents so that they can afford some extra luxuries like travel and enjoy the rest of their lives.

And then there's the difference between loaning and gifting money.


That's a good way to get everyone to hate you.


Why would helping out your family with some financial stuff make everyone hate you?

Or do you mean they might resent you if you do that?


Absolutely do not do that.


[flagged]


Helping your siblings is communism?


This is what Fox news and the modern GOP have done to my country.

Note: I'm an ardent capitalist, not particularly partisan by nature, and probably would be a Republican at this point if my life had the Republican party remained what they were 50 years ago. Nonetheless, I'm often stunned at what we've become thanks to modern GOP-inspired propaganda. What would my dear (and communism-hating, btw) grandparents think of such comments, when it was a dear sibling's help that allowed the family to survive the depression?

Propaganda sucks.


Agreed.


how can you say you are "an ardent capitalist" but opposed to partisanship and propaganda lol? do you think supporting capitalism over socialism is outside the realm of partisanship?


  had the Republican party remained what they were 50 years ago
Meaning, powerless and irrelevant at the Federal level and in 60% of the statehouses?


The sitting president 50 years (minus 10 days) ago was a Republican.


How did your family end up in such a situation?

As an anecdote, I saw a somewhat opposite situation: all siblings but one got their degrees and are now school teachers. The remaining one joined a railroad maintenance team and makes twice as much.


>There is one important caveat to keep in mind when thinking about our dataset. The SSA numbers include any wage earners whatsoever, even part-time workers like students and teenagers.

not leading with this feels like poor reporting


Just scroll down - the whole site is filled with questionable 'data insights'.

Which City is Adding the Most Jobs in Your States in CA? San Bernardino. Oh wait, it is percentage mapped to region size, not to population - so going form 1 to 2 employees in a hypothetical empty but vast region would be a 100% growth, and nice peak on the map.

Percentage of people living in extreme poverty in Russia and Kazakhstan? 0.0% (hint: it is actually no data)

It is either a troll site, or a good example of data misinterpretation.


They also use the term “earn” but the numbers they are throwing around are entirely after-tax. That’s not even poor reporting. That’s intentionally misleading. No one thinks that money paid to the government in the form for tax is unearned by the individual.


The money that it says I make in my contract has basically been a meaningless number to me most of my life other than a hard number I don't need to calculate when comparing jobs. It is only now that I have a "true" job after graduate where I make enough money to be able to set aside some money before tax.


The money your employer pays you is what you actually earn. The fact that you pay taxes on your earnings does not reduce them. If your tax rate doubles next year, your earnings don't go down as a result (though your take-home will).

The IRS specifically defines earned income as what your employer pays you.

https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-in...


Plus after tax can mean after one puts money into health coverage, retirement, a college fund, etc. That figure is much less scary as take-home than gross salary.


A lot of those part time workers are living on that wage, so it's not misleading to leave it out. Full time employment is quickly becoming something only office workers have.


Students and minors don't make up anywhere near half of the working population, though.


24% of the U.S. population is under the age of 18. If you include those that are in college, disabled, and retired then you are now at roughly 1/3 of the population. Based on the statististics provided in the article that would mean 75% of the population make above $30k.


> 24% of the U.S. population is under the age of 18.

We're talking about the US workforce, not the whole population.


When you look at the salary data for full-time-employed white men of prime working age the statistics aren't much rosier: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LEU0253204200A

Median salary: USD 34270.


Did you mean to link to something else? That y axis is the quantity of persons who are white men and working full time, not their median salaries.


That's embarrassing.


I honestly wonder are people that delusional that they overlook the ridiculous debt that the country is in? Don't get me wrong, I am not from America myself but I have a lot of friends from there, and I generally don't hear anything good about the 'American dream'.

If you take a hard step back, like way back. And take a moment to look at the "situation" with an outside perspective, don't you think it's a little ridiculous that the debt keeps growing, and somehow the numbers get adjusted, and more loans are given.

And it makes me wonder, if this is not being actively resolved now, then when? In a 1,000 years? I have a hard time believing that society is going to survive that long with all the idiocracy that's going on.


Government debt denominated in one's own currency is not really a serious issue because governments can print their own currency to pay it off. Yes this can result in inflation, but the inflationary effects are vastly overstated. Most of the inflation happens at the point of spending.

I recommend reading up on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/01/diagrams-dollars-...


MMT says that printing money has no effect if you give it to certain people. I’ve yet to hear of a real-world example where a major economy doubles or triples their monetary supply with no negative effect, which is what MMT will have you believe (“don’t give it to the banks - give it to poor people in Idaho!”).

If it sounds too good to be true then it is.


The US M1 Money Supply has tripled since 2000 according to the St. Louis Fed: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M1SL

There have not been issues with high inflation.


The problem is that once the debt is repaid you have to provide something in exchange for that money. If it's good and services, fine, we can produce a lot of these. But if that's land and factories, the country will be owned by foreign investors pretty soon.

Not sure if it's a good thing.


The Fed increased the monetary base by 5x during the Great Recession. Where's the hyperinflation?


MMT is economics for morons


What is the less moronic theory that I should read up on instead?


Is it really not serious? Is there a possible chance that countries that we get our debt resolved from can just start buying US land and US businesses? Isn't there a reason more and more US companies are re-incorporating in the bahamas or other locations? The net effect of the last 20 years of economic policy will likely be felt... suddenly - when a decision is made by the new owner.


The national debt problem is somewhat overblown in popular opinion. Sovereign debt, in a country that pays it in its own currency, is bounded by inflation, not tax receipts. In practice this means that the US can reduce its debt to more manageable levels by permitting mild inflation (something I can see the Fed doing) and instituting greater fiscal responsibility at the federal level (perhaps less likely).

Also, it's important to note that strictly speaking, growing debt doesn't matter as long as the GDP grows by the same amount. Of course, that's not happening, so there is a problem. But as long as there is some leeway for inflation to increase (which there currently is), the debt is ultimately manageable.


From an outside perspective the problem of household debt to household disposable income is not a uniquely American problem, nor is it even most acute in America.

Total household debt as a % of net disposable income is 109% in US. European countries with higher levels (in increasing order) are Greece, Spain, Belgium, France, Portugal, Finland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, and Denmark.

In Denmark, household debt is 280% of net disposable income. https://data.oecd.org/hha/household-debt.htm


>48% of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage

Isn't that how math works?


Definitely a weird thing to highlight as a "surprise" but also not quite right, since it should be exactly half... and also that portion of the pie should be a semicircle (around 180 degrees even if it's 48%)... but it's significantly smaller than that somehow?


It does point out that wage is still and predominantly the biggest factor in net compensation.

This is assuming that bonuses, commissions etc. count as compensation, but not wages.


Net compensation includes bonuses and such. It's not just wages. The 48% figure is the cumulative total of people with net compensation < 30k. So it's not wrong by construction just oddly misleading.

If you look at the SSA data, It also highlights that the mean net compensation is about $48k. And 67.4% of wage earners have net comp below that figure. Which is in line with the graphic.


This is chart junk. The issue raised in the opening paragraph is a change in wages. Therefore it should be represented as a time-series chart (line, bar, etc...). This is a static view. The different categories are nestled together in a way that obscures their relationship to their neighbors. The income groups are not categorical groups they're subranges. They should be next to each other in a progression. This graphic is confusing and unhelpful.

This probably could have been done well with a steam graph. Maybe a slope graph. I'd have to see the data and it depends on what they're really trying to show.


Dual ~30k incomes is still very much middle class in most of the US.


Unfortunately most of the population lives in a select few metro areas where, due to the price of rent, greatly reduces the power of 60k in joint income, married or not :(


Most?


I mean, do you want a specific number? Because if you go to the Wikipedia page for "List of US Metropolitan Statistical Areas", you'll see the following

Amarillo TX population: 265,000

NY, LA, CHI, DAL, HOU, DC, MIA: 70,000,000


21.5% is not what I would consider “most of the population”.


Well he's not considering in a lot of the other cities that have the same problem. Example: Philadelphia and its suburbs.


Additionally, there's only 144m people employed in the USA according to BLS, so 70 million is half the country :)


Except that 70 million probably contains a lot of people not in the workforce. So it's not "apples to apples".


Then assume 50-60% are working and include the addition multi-million person metropoles I left out like BOS PHI PHX etc


Assuming that 50-60% of the population of cities is working is probably too high. As a simple example, the third table at https://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/vital_statistics/2016/t... data for New York City for 2016. Total population is 8,537,673. Population under 18 is 1,798,888. Population over 64 is 1,155,075. That's 35% of the population right there.

Some of them might be working, of course. For the kids, this is not likely to be more than 10% (which would be _all_ the 16 and 17 year olds, pretty much). For the seniors, let's guess 33% (pretty much everyone under 70). That leaves 28% of the population in the kid-or-senior age range and not-working and 7% in the kid-or-senior age range and working.

To get to 50% overall working with those assumptions, you need 43% of the population to be prime age and working. The prime age population is 65% of the total. So you need 43/65 = 66% of the 18-65 age population working. But in 2017 (yes, I know, a year later; I haven't found the 2016 equivalent) https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/economic/labor-force-tre... claims a labor force participation rate of just about 60% for NYC (see page numbered 14 in the document, page 17 of the PDF). And that's the rate for 25-64, which should be higher than the 18-64 rate, because as the document notes "people between the ages of 16 and 24 are more likely to be in high school or college".

Page 15 of the document (page 18 of the PDF) does show labor force participation rates for 16-24 and 65+ in New York State and our "33%" above for seniors was likely a significant overestimate based on that, though it's hard to tell: NYC labor force participation may not match the overall state very well, obviously.

Anyway, under the (imo optimistic) assumptions above, something like 45% of the overall population of NYC is in the labor force. Or in other words if you ignore the 18% of the population that is children under 15, it's about 55%. So your estimate was pretty close if you ignore the existence of kids...

Or put another way, if the prime-age labor force participation rate is 60%, there's no way that 60% of the overall population is working. Just not possible.


I appreciate your statistics but I'm not quite sure how they are related to our discussion.

Most of the kids in NY state are living under the care and support of their parents and aren't working, therefore they shouldn't even be a factor in population/labor force participation metric.

Additionally, many of the old people who aren't working shouldn't be factored in either because they are receiving quite high pensions to live from, as well as social security.

When you factor this in, my initial ratios still stand. Out of the 325m people living in the USA, 45% are working (145m). When subtracting the 30% of Americans who are retired or under the care of parents, you are removing 100m people.

Therefore, as you say, the "prime age" labor force participation rate is 65% (145m/225m).

Applying this ratio to my original numbers, 45.5 million people are laborers in the Northeast. The other 25m either used to be laborers or are protected financially by laborers.

We cannot possibly say that an area like Amarillo TX, with just 100,000 laborers, is indicative of some nationally sustainable trend where cost of living is cheap and wages are still high.

This denies the existence of an extremely large block of humans, who are struggling despite earning decent money.


The original context, as far as I can tell, was "what fraction of workers live in the high-cost metro areas?", right?

We're trying to estimate this in all sorts of indirect ways, when the real questions, which I am sure we should be able to find answers for, are:

1) How many workers are there total?

2) How many workers are there in high-cost metro areas?

What we can't easily do is derive the answer for #2 from the total population of said metro areas; it's heavily dependent on the age structure of said metro areas and the specific workforce participation rates for those areas by age.

> Therefore, as you say, the "prime age" labor force participation rate is 65%

On average across the US, plausible.

> Applying this ratio to my original numbers, 45.5 million people are laborers in the Northeast

Yes, but even in the northeast not everything is in an expensive metro area, fwiw.

> We cannot possibly say that an area like Amarillo TX, with just 100,000 laborers, is indicative of some nationally sustainable trend

On its own, sure. But there are a lot more areas like that (by count; how the population totals look is not obvious to me) than there are big expensive metro areas.

That is, you might be right in your original claim that "half the country" are in the high-cost situation, but your data is not showing that very conclusively.

That said, I would be shocked if less than 1/4 of the country is in that situation. And yes, we should be aware that these tens of millions of people exist and of their situation.


Thank you so much for your well-reasoned response :) I think we've found middle-ground in trying to estimate these numbers too.

It sounds like we could ball-park the number at 33% of Americans being in high cost of living areas.

Additionally, it sounds like we agree that that percentage might change based on if you're looking at urban, suburban, or rural areas, and if you are factoring in dependents or retirees.

I think the question we ask from here is, "how do we increase the number of people who are able to have a large chunk of discretionary income coming in?"

For this the answer is probably political, contentious, and complex. Not everyone can be a programmer, as there's only 4 million computer professionals in the US right now. Not everyone can be a licensed employee either, who tend to make more money (health care, law), because labor supply is strictly regulated for these professions.

I think if we were to somehow reduce rent-seeking behavior in the economy (real estate and health insurance prices are pretty good indicators of state-enforced supply restrictions), then prices and salaries would begin to approach the mean again, which is around 50k per person.

I guess what I'm saying here is I think the roofer who makes 37k a year in Newark NJ is being underpaid, and the physician's assistant who makes 100k a year in Scottsdale AZ is being overpaid. I would wager their labor is of equal value, but is being artificially disrupted.


Even without considering other cities, we're starting to stretch the definition of "a select few"


It's easy to find decent living on $60k in DAL, HOU, CHI, and MIA if you're willing to go out to the suburbs where, guess what, tons of people live.


Even if there are millions of people (out of the 7m in Dallas) who are supposedly prospering on Texas' favorable housing/gas/income tax situation, this statistically is not the case in higher tax locations, such as the entire Northeast USA, Chicago, and all of California.

Believe me, I want all of us to be like Texas.


Taxation by the states is not people’s problems in the Northeast and “Northeast” contains a lot of variance in cost of living and economic outlook.


How can you possibly assert this when property taxes in the Tri-State (23 million people) are often $10,000 a year per house, and income is taxed at 5-9% compared to Texas which is 0.

The price of rent/mortgage is directly affected by property tax.


Homeownership is not necessary for well-being. The absolute cost of property taxes in some parts of the Northeast are high because the properties are highly valued. Taxes are not robbery, people in higher taxed areas get more services than low-tax places like Texas. Higher property taxes correlate with higher rent but the inverse can be true when home buying (i.e. a seller can ask more for a home in a low property tax city than an otherwise identically situated high property tax city). The Northeast is a lot more than just the Tri-State area, there are plenty of communities that do no have high property taxes either in absolute terms (because the homes aren't worth much) or as a percentage (either because the areas offer less services or they have so much commercial income that home property taxes can be kept low).


I appreciate your reponse, and agree that the entire country is not the Northeast :)

However, I would urge you not to discount the existence of 50m people in the Northeast megacorridor[1]. I am not particularly aware of what services are received that directly benefit people living here other than the ones that I have personally experienced, which are unemployment income and pension income for teachers (my parents).

In fact, 90% of property taxes in NY are sent to our school districts. I don't have kids, so I can only benefit from this in the abstract.

Additionally, I think it's important to note that in the last 20 years, wages have not risen in NY more than a dollar or two per hour, yet property values have risen from 100k to about 300k on Long Island.

I think these are serious headwinds for anyone pulling in 30k a year post tax, such as myself.


My original point was simply that property taxes come way behind many other problems in the Northeast. Housing costs, whether it's renting or buying, is near the top of the list but it's not like having a property tax rate comparable to Houston would make those homes affordable.

Sometimes there are situations where a senior citizen wants to stay in their home but the assessed value has gone up so much over the decades (plus some tax rate increases) that they can't afford the property tax. They may not value the financial windfall of selling the home and downsizing but there are worse problems to have. Anyway, the original topic was about wages and people of traditional working age.


Houston is a place where $60k is enough to buy a house.


Is it enough, or just barely enough? I'm seeing a median home price of 300k per Zillow. In addition to coming up with the 15-60k needed to put a downpayment on the house, you are hit with $2,000 a month in mortgage/insurance.

This hardly sounds like a steal to me because it is exactly what I am paying in NY. I make $2200 post tax per month, which is bang on the median income in this area. Half of my money goes to rent, the other half to car/food/health insurance and so on.

Were I to lose my job or have kids, the situation would be completely unaffordable in a matter of months as opposed to years, which is the type of cushion the earlier generations had.


Zillows says median home price of $187,000.[1] Where did you get $300K?

You could put $30K down and have a monthly payment of under $1,000 per month for mortgage, insurance and taxes.

[1]https://www.zillow.com/houston-tx/home-values/


Yea but add kids to the mix. You can easily spend 10k-15k in daycare.


per kid (in MA, at least)


Would be interested to know the composition of retirees subsisting on social security checks. Also, I believe this is individual income, rather than household. Wondering how much different the picture would be on a household income basis.


Perhaps nitpicky, but it bothers me that their data representation is a psuedo-pie chart that isn’t even centered.


Not nitpicky at all. It's a pointless, obfuscating blob of unhelpful colors violating basic principles of data visualization:

- Sequential income brackets are not adjacent. The wage of each blob can only be understood by reading every number

- Irregular shapes make it impossible to gauge size by eye

- White text on green and pink backgrounds does not score well on WCAG. At least they had the decency to make the text bold.


I even think it's intentionally obfuscated. The obfuscation misleadingly suggests the arbitrarily chosen thresholds 30k and 50k are somehow meaningful. This encourages group-association-based / class-divide-based outrage-sharing, reinforcing the infighting between lower middle class and upper middle class.


Lumping together $50k-$50M as though that's a meaningful interval is especially misleading.


I used to work om many of those undertable gigs in order to get something to eat in the evening. Later I figured out more about taxable gigs and 1099-MISC here: https://1099-misc-form.pdffiller.com/ (actually a copypaste from the IRS website) and was puzzled about how some young people actually supposed to live a decent life and pay that amount of their wages to a government as well


Anyone know the software package used to create this graph? Was it photoshop :)


What a weird way to visualize this data. A simple histogram or CDF plot would have shown the patterns quite well. This way it's hard to follow the bands and blobs, which seem to be based on completely arbitrary cutoffs. It doesn't even seem to follow its own strange logic, jumping suddenly from just under $100K (1% per blob) to over $100K (8%) in a different part of the diagram. Why would anyone do this?


I totally agree, it's not a very clear way to show the data.


>There is one important caveat to keep in mind when thinking about our dataset. The SSA numbers include any wage earners whatsoever, even part-time workers like students and teenagers. This drags down the aggregate wage numbers for full-time working adults, which reach $61,372 for households last year.

So...what do the statistics look like if we remove part time teenagers and students? I suspect much less attention grabbing than the headline.


Yet many parents still think that nerds are boring. Many students still bully those who focus on academic excellence. Teachers still think that students should learn easy peasy stuff because, well, "everyone is fking unique", or let's leave no child behind.

The end result? The people in the middle ground, aka most children, will be left behind.


30k is very low. If your company offers 6 holidays per year, that equals out to $14.71 per hour. That's below minimum wage in New York City right now.


>30k is very low.

Where you live

>$14.71 per hour. That's below minimum wage in New York City right now

Federal minimum wage is 7.25 and that is the minimum wage for many states as well, mine included. 30k is actually doing decent, after 12.5 years on the job I only make 33k with good reviews every year. If I was suddenly unemployed and had to go work retail I might get lucky and hire in at 8$ an hour.


Commenting here since I can't t reply to the dead comment.

How many people live in Wichita vs New York or a similarly expensive city? If half the country lives in metro areas then 14.71 is a low median wage


Well let's pile some more random data onto this tire fire and jump to some conclusions. (edit: comparing 2015 to 2017)

How much do Americans earn?

2015 data [1]: median household income was $52K. If you're white. If you're black, the median is $34K. So, only like, 1/3 less. Or if you're asian, the median is $72K.

2017 data [2]: median household income apparently jumps to $62k. If you're white it's $65k, black it's $40k, asian $81k.

Then the Social Security data (from 2013) shows the median net compensation for individuals is $28K. And according to tax data, the bottom 50% of taxpayers make less than $34K.

Since the poverty level for a family of 4 (in 2017) is $25k, that means a majority of families of 4 (which, again have to pay 4x for more food, clothing, transportation, education, and miscellaneous) have a bit more than subsistence level money.

2017 data [3]: Census claims the poverty level for a household of 1 is $12k. What? Who the fuck is living in America on $12k a year?

Adding up all the people making less than $15k comes to ~28% of Americans, or 92 million people, just above to below poverty level (SSA data for 2017 [5]). But Census poverty data [6] says only 12% are in poverty. There's a huge gap between the SSA's numbers of people and their net compensation, compared to the Census's formulation of how many people are in poverty. How is there a gap of 52 million people in calculating the poverty rate? Can someone point out what's going on?

GDP is also higher than median household income, which doesn't take inflation into account.

[1] http://www.mybudget360.com/how-much-do-americans-earn-in-201... [2] https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/tables/p60/263... [3] https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/tables/time-ser... [4] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-26... [5] https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2017 [6] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-26...

edit: in the Census report (https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publicatio...) they mention that you have to adjust all pre-2014 numbers by increasing them by 3.14 percent, due to changes in reporting....


The median Asian income is easily explained - only educated/relatively rich Asians can afford to immigrate. Most immigration is relatively recent (60s to present) so their status hasn't really had time to change a lot.


Citation? There are certainly rich Asians who immigrate, but I know plenty of people who immigrated and are absolutely not rich at all.

Many Asians who immigrate have little to nothing except an education, some don't even have that. We brought many over during the time frame of the Vietnam war who had nothing at all.


> Many Asians who immigrate have little to nothing except an education

Are Indians included in Asians?


> If you're white. If you're black, the median is $34K. So, only like, 1/3 less. Or if you're asian, the median is $72K.

Lol, that single fact makes the "white people oppress everybody else" nonsense fall on its face. I wonder why it's not often used as a rebuttal.


You're being downvoted, but if you look at a ranking of household income by ethnicity in the U.S., it's pretty clear that you're right. The highest earning ethnic group is Indian Americans. You can make the (terribly convoluted) argument that East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) are somehow white, but there's no getting around the fact that Indians are brown. At least as brown as Mexicans and probably browner (Mexicans tend to be about 40% European ancestry on average).

Here's that list for anybody who wants to take a look:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_U...


Hooooo boy.

First off, it's not in any way accurate to refer to groups of people by skin color. I know "white" Mexicans and "brown" Caucasians.

Second, the parent comment is misguided for a number of reasons.

Anyone suggesting "all white people do <x>" are misguided because they're trading in racist stereotypes. But there is a trend that they are trying to point out, which is an inherent bias of the majority population who receive a greater share of opportunities than any other group in this nation, which is shown by things like overall increased income, increased job opportunities, increased representation in government, increased representation on corporate boards, increased representation in the media and entertainment, etc. It's not hard to see that it's been a "white man's world" for a long time now and it's only starting to be rolled back. Unless you're white, in which case it's very hard to see.

In addition, the statement that this one metric alone proves that white people don't oppress other groups is silly! It's one year's median household income in the US! Even if asians as a group make more per median household, that doesn't mean they don't face discrimination, it just means they're well compensated. Show me all of the leading asian men in American movies, and all the asian men on boards of directors, and asian men as leaders of political parties, and so on.

Taking one arbitrary economic metric and using it to try to disprove an obviously problematic multifactored cultural norm, is really reaching.


> But there is a trend that they are trying to point out, which is an inherent bias of the majority population who receive a greater share of opportunities than any other group in this nation, which is shown by things like overall increased income, increased job opportunities, increased representation in government, increased representation on corporate boards, increased representation in the media and entertainment, etc. It's not hard to see that it's been a "white man's world" for a long time now and it's only starting to be rolled back.

These ethnically-focused statistics are so incredibly pointless and misguided, I don't know why anyone would want to bring them up other than to be purposefully divisive. What's the "median household income" among blue-collar, poor whites in the Midwest? In the Rust Belt? What about their "share" of national "opportunities"? You're focusing on what's literally a tiny bit of information about an individual (a handful of bits, at best)-- namely their racial/ethnic heritage-- and treating it like it's the One thing that Explains Everything about our society, or at least our "cultural norms". That makes zero rational sense, the only reason such an argument might appeal to us is cognitive bias.


I just said the same thing.


> greater share of opportunities than any other group in this nation, which is shown by things like overall increased income, increased job opportunities, increased representation in government, increased representation on corporate boards, increased representation in the media and entertainment, etc.

Money, i.e. resources, is the ultimate score. Ultimately, power (politics, corporate management) is primarily about managing resources (money) within companies, and within society at large. So, given that Asians are doing better as a group than white people, it's really nonsensical to say that they're opressed by them. It looks more like that are actually thriving. You could maybe make a convoluted claim that they are opressed and would be doing even better if they weren't, but that's stretching it.


> given that Asians are doing better as a group than white people

They're not. They have higher median household income. Median household income does not determine whether one ethnic group does better than another ethnic group. It only determines if their median household income is doing better.

And if you think money is the end-all-be-all, white people are the tops. "96.1 percent of the 1.2 million households in the top one percent by income were white, a total of about 1,150,000 households. In addition, these families were found to have a median net asset worth of $8.3 million dollars."

One thing, the median amount of money that a household has, is different than another thing, which is aggregate political, social, and economic power.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonio-moore/americas-financ...


Or maybe it just takes a while for families to establish themselves? Over half of Asians in the U.S. are foreign born. With most of the remainder being the second generation.

That said, Asians are starting to get elected to political office. There are three Asians in the U.S. Senate (making 3% of all senators) and there are 14 Asian members of the House of Representatives (making 2.6%). That might seem low, given that Asians make up about 7% of the U.S. population, but over half of Asian Americans are foreign-born. I think the fairer comparison is to American-born Asian Americans (after all, it's hard to get elected when you're not a native speaker of English and you're missing shared cultural references). And that shows an attainment of political office in line with their representation in the population at large.

I can't find decent stats on Asians in the 1% of income, but if you have a source you like, I'm happy to dig in. The link you provided just has an "Other" category at 1.6%.

My stats are from these wikipedia articles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Asian_Americans_and_Pa...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Asian_American...


So you have an ethnic group that A) is many shades darker that even the darkest European ethnicities, B) speaks with an accent that is very difficult for native English speakers to understand, C) only had a meaningful support group of people with the same background in the last several decades, and D) is able to pull in 2x the income of white Americans and your position is that somebody's race is the most important limiting factor to their success in this country?


Anyone else having a hard time with the infograph? Why not just use the usual rectangular shape instead of circle?


Would be awesome to see the same chart but broken down by what percentage of income each category represents


> 48% of wager earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage

I'm surprised. I expected that 50% of wage earners would make less or equal to the median wage. If for no other reason than the definition of median.


If you're going to be this pedantic, 50 is greater than 48. They're not wrong.


It might have to do with rounding and the resolution of the cohort binning -- 48% being pretty close to 50%.


Someone further up made a similar comment, and got a non-pedantic response: wages don't include bonuses, but net compensation does. That's why it's not 50%.


Yeah I looked for a * or reference of some kind, but did not find one. I think they are using 30k as the threshold for the 48% number, while the median is the 31k and change number.


Sure. Median(Variable) = Probability(value<=Variable) = 50%.


Ties. It's probably because of rounding.


Uh, are you thinking mean? Median is lining up every salary, counting to N/2, and selecting the number you happen to fall on.


...which is exactly what they've described.


[flagged]


The 1% aren't some clandestine group who trick people. Reality is just a highly complex set of different distributions of people interacting with each other, economic structure, government, and culture.

Treat and solve it as a systems issue. Attributing maligned motives to small discretized sets of people doesn't solve problems.


Agreed. What is the solution to this systems issue, in your opinion?


Gather all the best ideas, and run lots of small decentralized experiments. Evaluate and iterate. I don't trust anyone who claims to see the solution as clearly as day.


I do not literally mean that there is an organized shadowy cabal of people wearing monocles sitting in smoke filled rooms scheming about ways to oppress low wage workers.

However, thanks to court decisions like Citizens United, the sheer amount of money in lobbying, and revolving doors between government decision-making jobs and industry executive positions, wealthy business owners have never been in a better position to propagandize.

Look at Sinclair's ownership of television stations for instance.


Uh what? The 1% are in favour of immigration as it increases the supply of labor which leads to a drop in the equilibrium price for labor.


but hey capitalism, is the greatest invention since we discovered we could wipe our behinds. Problem, with America is there's a lot of embarrassed 'to-be' millionaires. Once everyone accept it's okay to be average and life a average lifestyle safe-guarded by the a social net, a lot of people will be lifted from poverty.


What's your point? Can you please elaborate?


The numbers indicate that the population has been growing increasingly unequal. Do you think the US has moved more towards free market capitalism or away from it? Does the result support your original argument?


stopped reading at "net". misleading title


The crisis never ended, it just changed shape.


Yet many talking heads insist that cheap (under the table) labor from undocumented workers has negligible effect on earnings of poorly educated Americans (rural or inner city). They still think abandoning TPP was bad, that playing tough with China is bad.

Dems used to protect the working class till the 80s, they used to be anti-globalists (till Clinton) then they got the fever for corporate money and sold them down the river and only half heartedly pay lip service to them. The only one left caring is Bernie, but he’s too far left for traditional labor.


It is a sad situation. But the article doesn't support the title. Because I only see one time point. And "vanishing" requires comparison.

A few decades ago, at what was arguably the peak of the US middle class, relatively few adult married women worked outside the home. But of course, they did work. It's just that they didn't get paid.

Or rather, they got paid through sharing their husbands' income. What's happened since is that both partners often work, but aggregate inflation-adjusted income (aka household income) has stagnated. Maybe even declined.

Anyway, the point is that, a few decades ago, maybe 30%-40% of workers earned nothing. So to get meaningful results, you need to look at aggregate household income over time. Including both partners, and children. And you also need to net out childcare expenses.

Also, I note that TFA relies on W2 data. So what about consultants, whose income is reported on 1099s? But maybe they're a minor factor, and can be ignored.

And finally, it's my impression that executive incomes are typically capped at a $million or so. With the rest paid as stock options and such.


One problem with the aggregate household income being added up is there isn't an accounting for worked hours (basically doubling the hours by having 2 people working for a company).

A different, but simple comparison would be to take minimum wage in 1968 ($1.60), adjust for inflation ($11.62 - 2017) and then compare to our current minimum wage ($7.25). So had minimum wage been tied to inflation, it would be right around $12/hr right now.


Arguably you're not doubling the hours. Because decades ago, women worked at home, but weren't paid.


And then you should also factor in the value of the work women did at home, and weren't paid for. Because they're now having to pay someone else to do that work, which reduces the effective income gain of them working.


Yes, very true. And that makes it worse.

I do think that the US middle class is shrinking. But there's a lot more involved than TFA addresses.


If $30,000 per year is "substandard" then the rest of the developed world must be positively impoverished: https://mises.org/wire/when-it-comes-household-income-sweden.... There's a very legitimate criticism to be made about the plight of the poor in the U.S. But the U.S. middle class has it better than almost everyone else in the world. They make a lot more money than in Europe, and pay far less taxes. (Indeed, the poor in the U.S. are so bad off precisely because the middle class pays far less taxes compared to their European counterparts. The difference between Trump's tax code and Sweden's is not corporate tax rates, but individual tax rates, particularly for people outside the top 1%.)

In reality, $30,000 is a pretty decent income for a young single person in Atlanta, where a 1BR apartment near a subway stop can be had well under $1,000. It's tough for someone trying to support a family of four, but by and large those people don't make $30,000. The median income for people 35+ is $50,000. And the median household income of a married couple with kids is $85,000.

There is also the fact that, even if there were zero income inequality (everybody got paid the same), the median income would be about $50,000 (13 trillion in personal income divided by about 250 million working-age people).


This is remarkably ignorant of the actual circumstances that lower-class Americans have to deal with, especially when you share almost improbable statistics that are completely out of touch with reality.

30,000 is far from a decent income considering people get gouged on health insurance, which effectively functions as another tax on their post-tax income. When you start adding in the costs of food, internet, phone, utilities etc the end result is much more dire. This is not even counting the fact that Americans work more for less, considering people in Sweden, your example, I guarantee you get far more time off, have more job security and considerably better benefits.


I'm not disagreeing that there is a "lower class" of Americans that face these circumstances. What I'm disagreeing with is the article's implication that the median American somehow shares this plight. The article ignores a crucial fact: that the "median income" does not represent the "median American." The "median American" makes over $50,000 at age 35+. The "median income" reflects everyone just starting out in their career, etc. That's the basic fallacy of the article. We imagine someone with kids making $30,000 and how hard that would be. And then we see that the median income is $30,000, and are shocked to think that somehow half of all people must be in those "dire" financial circumstances. But someone making $30,000 with kids to support is in fact far below the median. The median family income in the U.S. is $73,000.

These statistics are not "improbable"--they are fact: https://dqydj.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/average_median_....

Your point about health insurance also contradicts reality. Excluding people covered by Medicare and military health care, 70% of Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance. That covers, on average, 86% of premiums for the employee and 75% for dependents. Many Americans don't have health insurance, of course. But the median American does. The person making $30,000 and getting "gouged on health insurance" out of that amount is far below the median.

> This is not even counting the fact that Americans work more for less

That's simply false. The median income in the U.S. is about 10% higher than Sweden (and much higher than the U.K. or France or Germany). Do Swedes get 36 extra days off each year to compensate? (No they don't.) Disposable income at the median is even higher in the U.S. because Sweden has extremely high tax rates on the middle class. The poor in Sweden, on the other hand, are much better off thanks to those taxes on the Swedish middle class.


> The "median American" makes over $50,000 at age 35+

TIL I should start magically making an extra 17k a year in 14 months, yay! I guess the 100ish people in my office (and the fact that no one at my level, anywhere in the country, for my employer makes anywhere near 50k) over that age, not making that much, are anomalies.

The 'median American' doesn't make over 50k$, the median household income in my state is only 54k.


Do you have statistics to back that up? OP is providing you with stats showing people over 35+ have that median income so I dont see how your gonna argue data with anecdotes..


OP provided a direct link to a random image on a wordpress blog with no context whatsoever...


>I'm not disagreeing that there is a "lower class" of Americans that face these circumstances. What I'm disagreeing with is the article's implication that the median American somehow shares this plight. The article ignores a crucial fact: that the "median income" does not represent the "median American." The "median American" makes over $50,000 at age 35+. The "median income" reflects everyone just starting out in their career, etc. That's the basic fallacy of the article. We imagine someone with kids making $30,000 and how hard that would be. And then we see that the median income is $30,000, and are shocked to think that somehow half of all people must be in those "dire" financial circumstances. But someone making $30,000 with kids to support is in fact far below the median. The median family income in the U.S. is $73,000.

I would certainly hope you would agree that each American in those age groups is going to have experienced different job prospects and different stages of the economy, which is why it can be misleading. For example I would easily make the argument that the average American below the age of 35 would also have considerably more debt than Americans age 35+. This is just one measure of how median income can be entirely misleading.

And my arguments against your statistics was more about the fact that you linked to a highly partisan outlet seemingly known for heavily cherry-picking statistics to prove a hard-right bias.

>Your point about health insurance also contradicts reality. Excluding people covered by Medicare and military health care, 70% of Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance. That covers, on average, 86% of premiums for the employee and 75% for dependents. Many Americans don't have health insurance, of course. But the median American does. The person making $30,000 and getting "gouged on health insurance" out of that amount is far below the median.

Premiums are only one half of an equation; with HDHPs even if your employee covers a large amount of the premiums a medical emergency still leaves you stuck with over 6k in debt, something a lot of poor families cannot afford considering how little they have in savings [1]

> Do Swedes get 36 extra days off each year to compensate? (No they don't.)

Yeah, about that. [2] Sweden gets 34 total days of paid leave per year, guaranteed. America has no such provisions and it is entirely up to the discretion of the company. For developers, we can probably expect to get around ~10-15 days off, plus occasional holidays.

[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-have-less-t...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_b...


> For developers, we can probably expect to get around ~10-15 days off, plus occasional holidays.

Those "occasional holidays" amount to nearly two weeks (10 business days) in the U.S. And the person you're responding to was saying that Swedes would have to get 30-something additional days off to make up for the earning discrepancy.


Considering that there are many Americans in poverty that get little to no time off, Swedes would be around 30-something additional days off.

How many days off per year do you think people in retail get? Not just time off they get on paper either, but time off they can take without being shamed. Hell, look at the 'unlimited pto' scam some software companies employ in order to reduce the amount of time off a developer can take.

Have you ever worked retail? Or do you know anyone that has?


According to paycheckcity.com, 30K a year is a net income of $2000 a month in GA.

Rent - 800

Food - 400

Power/Water/Gas - 300

Internet - $50

Cell - $50

These are all reasonable numbers for Atlanta.

It would be a stretch and you should probably have a room mate to give you some breathing room but it can be done. Also if you have roommates, you could afford a car and insurance.

My son is living on his own in Atlanta so I know the expenses are accurate.

We keep him on our family insurance and we can until he is 26.


Which speaking of that, I sincerely hope your son doesn't end up needing insulin, or else he might end up running into trouble once he ages out of your insurance [1]

[1] https://truthout.org/articles/i-had-to-bury-my-26-year-old-s...


"We keep him on our family insurance and we can until he is 26."

You really buried the lede. Will you also pay the health insurance for all the other hypothetical Atlanteans that you're claiming can get by on 30k?


Worse case, insurance on the exchange is $440 a month but I would assume someone making $30K has a full time job with group insurance. If not, and since it would be pretax - add $5280 a year.


I wish that were a safe assumption, but many, many--perhaps most--low-wage workers have jobs that keep them just below the full-time threshold so that the employers do not have to provide insurance.

One good way to find our about why it's so difficult to get by on ~$30k is to talk to someone (or multiple people) who make that little. You'll find that the vast majority of the time the fantasy that they blow their money on iphones and drugs evaporates, and the reality that healthcare, housing, childcare, student loan payments, etc are all much more expensive than you've estimated shines through.


$30K a year would be $15/hour full time. What single part time job that would have to pay more than 15/hr would get someone to $30K?


Now imagine this without familial support of any kind.


I don't have to I live it except I gotta help a 66 year old, retired early via disability, parent on top of it in Indy at 33k a year.


At $30,000, a family likely qualifies for Medicaid in their state.


If we use his example of Atlanta, Georgia an income of $30,000 would be over the requirements for Medicaid for quite a lot of families [1]

The poorest states it would seem to me are also the ones most stringent with offering Medicaid.

[1] https://medicaid.georgia.gov/sites/medicaid.georgia.gov/file...


I didn't use an example of a family, because a family making $30,000 is not the median. The median family income in Georgia is $68,000: https://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/Georgia. This is a city where you can buy a 3BR house bigger than the one I grew up in for a $920/month mortgage: https://www.redfin.com/GA/Kennesaw/3072-Black-Gum-Dr-NW-3015....




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