Overflight, 117

A study by the AFL−CIO in 1977 revealed that, in spite of wage increases in terms of dollars, the real wages of the average American — in terms of what he can buy with those dollars — were going down. That trend was confirmed in 1980 by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1992, the Consumers’ Union analyzed how many hours one had to work to buy common items compared to thirty years previously. Some low−priced items — such as long−distance phone calls, gasoline, food products, and wrist−watches — were cheaper in 1992 in terms of hours worked to acquire them. But the higher−priced items — such as housing, college educations, and health care — were far more costly than ever. The report concludes:
«The average U.S. household has maintained its living standard largely because families are working more hours. Millions of women entered the work force in the past 25 years. In 1970, about 21 million women worked full time. Now that figure is over 36 million. That has helped to keep family buying power fairly stable. But for many families, it now represents the labor of two earners rather than one.»
The message here is that real wages in America have declined. Young couples with a single income now have a lower standard of living than their parents did. In spite of two incomes, the real net worth of the average household is falling. The amount of leisure time is shrinking. The percentage of Americans who own their homes is dropping. The age at which a family acquires a first home is rising. The number of families counted among the middle class is falling. The size of the family savings is smaller. The number of people living below the officially defined poverty level is rising. The rate of personal bankruptcy is triple of what it was in the 1960s. Over 90% of all Americans are broke at age 65.