Speed Reads

Stagnation Nation

Americans' real wages haven't budged in 50 years

Americans' real wages haven't budged in 50 years

A stunning chart from the Pew Research Center illustrates what many Americans have long felt: We're earning no more money, on average, than we (or our parents or grandparents) did decades ago.

The purchasing power of the average American hourly wage in 1964 was $19.18 in today's dollars, compared to $20.67 now. That's actually an improvement from the 1980s and 1990s, when Americans' purchasing power dropped below 1964 levels for several years.

But lest one think Americans are earning about the same amount for the same work as they did 50 years ago, worker productivity has skyrocketed in the ensuing decades:

And while labor costs have also increased since 1964, they've risen much more slowly than productivity — particularly in the last 30 years:

In other words, American workers have become more expensive to employ — but have more than made up for it by working more efficiently. Nevertheless, they're still making the same amount of money, on average, as they were when Lyndon Johnson was president.

Food for thought as you fight through your next commute to work...