Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Tuesday, October 14, 2003  

Yesterday I talked a little about labor. My intent was to argue that this was an issue about power and that the worker is increasingly losing power--thanks to diminishing union membership and increasing power of corporations over employees and law. It occurred to me that I hadn't really offered any evidence that it's getting harder for workers to make ends meet, which makes for a pretty poor case indeed. Let me rectify that.

Digging around the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I found a few telling numbers (I can't link directly to the outputs, but they're there). First, looking solely at medium and large employers (not fair to ding the small businesses), I wondered how workers are doing on bennies. Not well.

Incidence of medical care benefits: 1980 - 97%; 1997 - 76%
Incidence of paid vactions: 1979 - 100%; 1997 - 95%
Incidence of paid sick leave: 1980 - 62%; 1997 - 56%
Incidence of defined benefit pension: 1980 - 84%; 1997 - 50%
Average number of paid holidays: 1980 - 10.1%; 1997 - 9.3%
Incidence of paid holidays: 1980 - 99%; 1997 - 89%


All right then, what about wages? The Census Bureau shows that wages have been kept down for lower-income earners relative to middle and upper. I attempted to insert a handy table here, but my brain is too wee for such antics (or at least the technical part of it). So bear with the following stats. Based on wages calculated in 2001 dollars, we can see how much growth each percentile of the income distribution experienced over a 32-year period.

The bottom 20th Percent
(Year, top income in the bracket, percent growth over last interval)
1967 - 13,474
1977 - 14,986, 11%
1987 - 16,094, 7%
1999 - 18,161, 13%
total growth between '67-'99: 35%

Median income (50th percentile)
1967 - 32,081, 9%
1977 - 34,989, 11%
1987 - 38,835, 11%
1999 - 43,107, 34%
total growth between '67-'99: 34%

80th percentile
1967 - 53,181
1977 - 62,130, 17%
1987 - 72,069, 16%
1999 - 83,830, 16%
total growth between '67-'99: 58%

95th percentile
1967 - 85,334
1977 - 100,441, 18%
1987 - 120,597, 20%
1999 - 149,992, 24%
total growth between '67-'99: 76%


I don't have time to look into hours worked, hours worked per household, and household incomes, but I bet we'd find that these indices also show it's harder and harder for families to get by. If anyone else wants to dig around for those data, I'll be happy to add them here.

posted by Jeff | 9:08 AM |
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