Assistant Professor of Economics at Bard College and Levy Institute Research Associate Pavlina R. Tcherneva recently published the following chart, which has gotten a lot of notice by the press. It shows the distribution of income growth to the wealthiest 10% versus the bottom 90% that occurred during every post World War II period of economic expansion in the United States.
One look at this chart and it becomes very apparent why we have to look back at the post World War II era as the golden age for the common man and woman in America. Clearly the baby boomers had an unparalleled opportunity to grow up in a time of income growth unlike any other generation in modern times.
It shows how my folks, neither having graduated from college, could raise 3 kids in a nice house with a stay-at-home mom. How we could afford to have a summer cottage in the mountains. And drive fairly new cars, with an older car for the kids. Why we could sustain the belief that turning 18 and heading off to college was the last time, except maybe for a few summers, that we would live in our parents home.
But even more, it’s a testament to our expectations of growing success and higher wages. To getting married, starting a family and buying a house. Baby boomer mentality supported by an economic boom that empowered the average Joe and Jane, unlike today’s growing plutocracy.
So, let me ask, do we want to live in that economy or today’s economy? If young people feel they don’t have realizable aspirations why work hard? Why strive to be an above average employee? Don’t we see the link between economic opportunity and a worker’s motivation?
Productivity has been linked to job satisfaction. If the stacked deck of wage stagnation and income decline means that workers can’t “get no, no satisfaction” then how can employers expect truly satisfied workers who are motivated to increase their productivity?