Productivity 1979–2018

+69.6%


Hourly pay?1979–2018

+11.6%


Productivity has grown 6.0x more than?pay since 1979.

Since 1979, pay and productivity have diverged.

From 1979 to 2018, net productivity rose 69.6 percent, while the hourly pay of typical workers essentially stagnated—increasing only 11.6 percent over 39 years (after adjusting for inflation). This means that although Americans are working more productively than ever, the fruits of their labors have primarily accrued to those at the top and to corporate profits, especially in recent years.

Why this happened—and how we can fix it

Rising productivity provides the potential for substantial growth in the pay for the vast majority. However, this potential has been squandered in recent decades. The income, wages, and wealth generated over the last four decades have failed to “trickle down” to the vast majority largely because policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power have exacerbated inequality. In essence, rising inequality has prevented potential pay growth from translating into actual pay growth for most workers. The result has been wage stagnation.

For future productivity gains to lead to robust wage growth and widely shared prosperity, we need to institute policies that reconnect pay and productivity and restore worker power, such as those in EPI’s First Day Fairness Agenda and the?Agenda to Raise America’s Pay. Without such policies, efforts to spur economic growth or increase productivity (the largest factor driving growth) will fail to lift typical workers’ wages.

Resources

The State of American Wages 2017:?Wages Have Finally Recovered from the Blow of the Great Recession but Are Still Growing Too Slowly and Unequally | March 1, 2018

Rising wage inequality has been a defining feature of the American economy for nearly four decades. Although we are seeing broad-based wage growth in 2017 data, ordinary workers are just making up lost ground rather than getting ahead.

First Day Fairness:?An Agenda to Build Worker Power and Ensure Job Quality | August 22, 2018

First Day Fairness is the right of all workers to a fair system of work from their first day on the job. EPI’s First Day Fairness Agenda is a systematic, wide-ranging policy agenda to shift economic leverage back to workers.

Understanding the Historic Divergence Between Productivity and a Typical Worker’s Pay: Why It Matters and Why It’s Real | September 2, 2015

This paper provides an updated analysis of the productivity–pay disconnect and the factors behind it, and explains the measurement choices and data sources used to calculate the gap.

Raising America’s Pay: Why It’s Our Central Economic Policy Challenge | June 4, 2014

Broad-based wage growth is the key to reversing the rise of income inequality, enhancing social mobility, reducing poverty, boosting middle-class incomes, and aiding asset-building and retirement security.

How to Raise Wages: Policies That Work and Policies That Don’t | March 19, 2015

Wage stagnation is not inevitable. It is the direct result of public policy choices on behalf of those with the most power and wealth that have suppressed wage growth for the vast majority in recent decades. Thus, because wage stagnation was caused by policy, it can be alleviated by policy.

 

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