The End of the Middle Class Century: How the 1% Won the Last 30 Years

Between 1921 and 2008, the top 10% and the bottom 90% shared income gains equally. The split was 50-50 exactly, according to a new fun interactive graphic built by the Economic Policy Institute with data from economist Emmanuel Saez.

Screen Shot 2012-09-11 at 12.17.59 PM.png

But between 1971 and 2008, real income declined for the bottom 90%. All the growth went to the top 10%, and more than half went to the top percentile.

Screen Shot 2012-09-11 at 11.47.03 AM.png

Saez' income data is widely used, but also controversial, since it focuses on market wages and discounts gains from government programs to help the lower-income. But this is a familiar story. The remarkable gains of the (broadly-defined) "middle class" in the middle of this century stopped cold in the last quarter of the 1900s. The all-important and impossible-to-answer question is whether the next generation will look more like the 30 years after World War II or the last 30 years.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Business

Just In