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The average American wage hasn't grown at all since 2000
What economic recovery?
Too many Americans are counting pennies.
Too many Americans are counting pennies. ThinkStock
I

f it seems like you aren't making any more money than you were a decade ago, that is probably because you aren't.

A new study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the real hourly wage (which is adjusted for inflation) for the median American worker hasn't risen at all since 2000. In fact, since 2007, every group besides those with an advanced degree — who made up just 11.4 percent of the population in 2012 — saw their hourly compensation take a dive.

Those with just a high school degree saw their wages drop the most — down 3.5 percent, compared with 0.7 percent for those with a bachelor's degree.

(Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Real wage growth fell sharply after the Great Recession hit and hasn't bounced back, which certainly puts a damper on the so-called economic recovery. While it's true that the U.S. economy is adding jobs, most of them are in the low-paying retail and restaurant sectors.

But wait — haven't corporate profits shot up over the last decade? Yes, they have, thanks to the fact that the American worker has been growing steadily more productive.

(Source: Economic Policy Institute)

That, however, hasn't led to an increase in real hourly wages. And the EPI was careful to stress that this isn't a new situation.

"For virtually the entire period since 1979 (with the one exception being the strong wage growth of the late 1990s), wage growth for most workers has been weak," wrote study authors Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz, noting that the median worker saw a real wage increase of just 5 percent over that time.

During that same period, productivity grew at a healthy 74.5 percent. Who has benefited from that growth? The richest 1 percent of Americans, who have seen their incomes quadruple since then.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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