The Stagnation Of The Middle Class, In 1 Graph : Planet Money Median earnings for men haven't risen since the early '70s. Earnings for women stopped rising more than a decade ago, according to a new report.
NPR logo The Stagnation Of The Middle Class, In 1 Graph

The Stagnation Of The Middle Class, In 1 Graph

If you look at only one slide deck of Census data today, make it this one (PDF). If you can't be bothered with a slide deck, at least look at this graph (though it's not pretty, in any sense):

Earnings for full-time, year-round workers via Census Bureau hide caption

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via Census Bureau

Median earnings for men who work full time, year-round jobs have been stagnant since the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation. Wages for women rose through the end of the 20th century, but have flat lined since 2001, as has the gap in earnings between men and women. (Here's an Excel spreadsheet with all the data.)

The graph — part of a big report the Census bureau released Tuesday — is, unfortunately, something of a dog-bites-man story by now. The Census puts out this report every year, and this year's version looks a lot like last year's.

There are a few big, crucial trends that people point to to explain the stagnation. Here's how the FT laid it out (emphasis added by us):

The rise of China, India, Brazil and others has undercut wages in the West and put America's unskilled, semi-skilled and even skilled workers out of jobs.

... the explosion of new technology, which has enabled the most routine and easily automated jobs to be replaced by computers. Think of the office assistant, who once took dictation and brewed the coffee. She is now a ­BlackBerry ...

... the conservative backlash, which began when Ronald Reagan came to power in 1980 and sped up the decline of unions ... .