The State of Working America, 2008/2009

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The State of Working America, prepared biennially since 1988 by the Economic Policy Institute, includes a wide variety of data on family incomes, wages, taxes, unemployment, wealth, and poverty-data that enable the authors to closely examine the effect of the economy on the living standards of the American people. This edition, like the previous ones, exposes and analyzes the most recent and critical trends in the country.

Praise for previous editions of The State of Working America:

"The State of Working America remains unrivaled as the most-trusted source for a comprehensive understanding of how working Americans and their families are faring in today's economy."—Robert B. Reich

"It is the inequality of wealth, argue the authors, rather than new technology (as some would have it), that is responsible for the failure of America's workplace to keep pace with the country's economic growth. The State of Working America is a well-written, soundly argued, and important reference book."—Library Journal

"If you want to know what happened to the economic well-being of the average American in the past decade or so, this is the book for you. It should be required reading for Americans of all political persuasions."—Richard Freeman, Harvard University

"A truly comprehensive and useful book that provides a reality check on loose statements about U.S. labor markets. It should be cheered by all Americans who earn their living from work."—William Wolman, former chief economist, CNBC's Business Week

"The State of Working America provides very valuable factual and analytic material on the economic conditions of American workers. It is the very best source of information on this important subject."—Ray Marshall, University of Texas, former U.S. Secretary of Labor

"An indispensable work . . . on family income, wages, taxes, employment, and the distribution of wealth."—Simon Head, New York Review of Books

"No matter what political camp you're in, this is the single most valuable book I know of about the state of America, period. It is the most referenced, most influential resource book of its kind."—Jeff Madrick, author of The End of Affluence

"This book is the single best yardstick for measuring whether or not our economic policies are doing enough to ensure that our economy can, once again, grow for everybody."—Richard A. Gephardt

"The best place to review the latest developments in changes in the distribution of income and wealth."—Lester Thurow

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This biennial edition by members of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) presents its valuable data on working families in America. The EPI's mission is to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers in the country's economic debate. The volume is a factual and unvarnished snapshot of the living standards of working America. Here we see falling family income, increased wealth concentration, rising economic disparity, and even class-based mortality differences, evidently the results of federal economic policies from 2000–08. As with all EPI publications, the research and presentation are impeccable, unbiased, and disturbing. Chapters on family income, class mobility, wage stagnation, employment, wealth, poverty, life expectancy, and international standing detail declining American standards of living at home and in comparison with other nations. BOTTOM LINE This edition is, as always, an unbiased presentation, but it amounts to an overwhelming indictment of federal policies that have favored the wealthy over working people. Highly recommended for all library reference sections.—Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Lawrence Mishel is the president of the Economic Policy Institute and its research director from 1987 to 1999. He is the coauthor of every edition of The State of Working America.

Heidi Shierholz is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute and coauthor of The State of Working America, 2008/2009 and The State of Working America, 12th Edition, both from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Executive summary 1

Introduction: The promises and the pitfalls of the new economy 17

Documentation and methodology 39

Chapter 1 Family income: Historic failure to grow in 2000s business cycle 43

Income in the 2000s: The weakest cycle on record? 44

Family income by race, ethnicity, and native/foreign birth 50

A closer look at full employment and Africian American income 52

Income by native/foreign birth 53

Income by age and family type 54

Income changes by family type 56

Growing inequality of family income 57

The impact of taxes on income and inequality 71

Family income changes by income class 76

Expanding capital incomes 81

Family work hours 91

Conclusion 94

Chapter 2 Income-class mobility: How much is there? 97

Switching places...or not: Intragenerational mobility 100

Intergenerational mobility 104

International mobility 108

Opportunity and mobility 110

Volatility 116

Conclusion 118

Chapter 3 Wages: Historic gap between productivity and compensation during recoveries 121

Taking stock of the 2000-07 business cycle 124

Contrasting work hours and hourly wage growth 127

Contrasting compensation and wage growth 129

Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers 131

Wage trends by wage level 133

Shifts in low-wage jobs 139

Trends among high earners 144

Trends in benefit growth and inequality 145

Dimensions of wage inequality 152

Productivity and the compensation/productivity gap 160

Rising education/wage differentials 162

Young workers' wages 169

The growth of within-group wage inequality 173

Wage growth by race and ethnicity 175

The gender wage gap 178

Unemployment andwage growth 179

The shift to low-paying industries 183

Trade and wages 186

The union dimension 198

The minimum wage dimension 209

The technology story of wage inequality 211

What is the technology story? 213

Reasons for skepticism about the technology story 214

Explaining education/wage gaps 216

Within-group wage inequality 218

Have the types of technologies deployed shifted? 218

Executive pay 219

Jobs of the future 223

Conclusion 225

Chapter 4 Jobs: Diminished expectations 227

Jobs 228

Gross job gains and losses 229

Industry sectors 232

Job quality 232

Unemployment 234

Long-term unemployment 241

Underemployment 244

Labor force participation 245

Employment 247

Nonstandard work 252

Part-time work 253

Temping 254

Job stability 256

Job tenure 256

Costs of displacement 258

Conclusion 259

Chapter 5 Wealth: Unrelenting disparities 263

Net worth 264

Racial divide 271

Assets 272

Stocks 273

Home ownership 279

Retirement income adequacy 282

Liabilities 284

Debt service 288

Hardship 289

The housing meltdown 292

Conclusion 296

Chapter 6 Poverty: Growth failed to reach low-income families 297

The official poverty measure 298

Racial and ethnic differences in poverty rates 301

Child and family poverty 303

The depth of poverty 305

Immigration and poverty 309

Alternative poverty measures 310

Relative poverty 314

The determinants of low incomes 316

Full employment 316

Income inequality 319

Putting it all together: Growth, inequality, family structure, education, and race 320

Tight job markets and work supports: A potent combination 323

Fading safety net? 325

The role of the low-wage job market 329

Conclusion 333

Chapter 7 Health: Life expectancy gap grows as coverage declines 335

Employer-provided health insurance among non-elderly Americans 336

Children experience lower access to private health coverage 338

Churning in and out of insurance coverage 339

Disparities in health insurance and life expectancy 340

Substandard access for nonstandard workers 340

Growing inequality in life expectancy 344

Health insecurity unequal by race and ethnicity 346

Rising costs 346

International comparisons 349

Conclusion 354

Chapter 8 International comparisons: How does the United States stack up against its global peers? 357

Per capita income and productivity 358

Employment and hours worked 363

Wages and compensation 376

Household income inequality 379

Poverty 384

Conclusion 387

Appendix A 389

Appendix B 393

Table notes 401

Figure notes 419

Bibliography 435

Index 445

About EPI 460

About the authors 461

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