Submitted by Taps Coogan on the 5th of October 2017 to The Sounding Line.
While the ‘squeezing’ of the American middle class gets a good deal of lip service from journalists and politicians, rarely does someone put numbers and charts to the problem. Here are exactly those numbers and charts via the great website Metrocosm, which shows the distribution of median incomes in the 20 largest American cities from 1970 to 2015.
As can be seen below, the distribution of median incomes in the 20 largest American cities has flattened dramatically since 1970. When the median income distribution flattens in this way, it means that a greater portion of the population in each of these cities is either poorer or wealthier than they were in 1970 (most are poorer), with comparatively fewer individuals occupying the ‘middle class.’ What is so startling about these charts is how universal the squeezing of the US middle class has been. Every single significant American city had a nice bell-curved income distribution in 1970 showing a big healthy middle class and every single city has seen it whittled away. Not surprisingly, the flattening is most severe in America’s rust belt cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, and worst of all New Haven.
Also in the Metrocosm article is the following chart from the Financial Times which shows the same trend for the nation as a whole. A great portion of America has moved either above or below middle class income levels with the biggest growth occurring among the wealthiest.
The chart below chart from the New York Times shows that with each economic expansion since World War II, income gains have been more skewed towards the wealthy. An astonishing 95% of the income gains experienced between 2009 and 2012 have gone to the top 1% of income earners. By comparison the top 1% of income earners captured only 1% of the income gains in the economic expansion from 1949 to 1953.
While the median income of ‘middle class’ Americans has risen since 1970, the portion of Americans in the middle class has fallen steadily. The American economy is increasingly bifurcating between those below or far above the middle class, with fewer and fewer actually in the middle class.
These charts should be mandatory reading for every policy maker at the Federal Reserve and in Washington DC. Both the Fed’s monetary policy and Washington’s economic and fiscal policies have objectively failed and promote broadly and equitably shared prosperity and these charts prove it.
P.S. In addition to these charts, a superb interactive map of eight American cities (New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans, Boston, and San Fransisco), created by Metrocosm, can be found HERE. This map cannot be embedded here at The Sounding Line, so you will need to click on that link to view it and we strongly recommend you do. I have to hand it to Max Galka at Metrocosm. He has created a collection of some of the most interesting interactive charts and info-graphics anywhere on the web. I highly recommend checking out his website.