Can We Save the American Middle Class?

Jan. 14, 2015

Here’s a statistic that tells an unusual story: In the last 25 years, adjusting for inflation, the U.S. economy has grown 83% – but the average American family’s income hasn’t grown at all. Here’s another: During the economic recovery, roughly twice as many low-wage jobs have been created as middle-income jobs.

In other words, the American middle class is weakening.

You can blame the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis, or the long-term impact of government tax and regulatory policies, or the globalization of trade. But there’s another root cause, one that it intricately tied to the others: the loss of manufacturing jobs in America. 

Manufacturing was, for much of the past century, the key to middle class growth. Immediately after World War II, manufacturing workers represented about 30% of the total workforce. Even as late as 1977, they accounted for 22% of nonfarm payroll here. Factory jobs were, for years, the key to economic vibrancy in towns and communities across the nation.

Read more on the middle class on IndustryWeek.

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