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Understanding Trends in Worker Pay over the Past 50 Years
AEI
2024.05.16
Despite numerous claims to the contrary, the pay of American workers has tracked productivity trends―for at least 95 years.
The pay of the median worker, however, after rising with economy-wide productivity, has risen much more slowly since the early 1970s.
This divergence reflects rising inequality in worker productivity and a deceleration in male pay―the latter caused by a shift to a service economy and the dissipation of “breadwinner rents” that went to sole male breadwinners in an era when women’s economic opportunities were constrained.
Policymakers should seek to accelerate productivity growth, which will help working- and middle-class Americans.