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While the rise in transfer income (government programs such as unemployment insurance and Social Security and Medicare) has blunted some of the sting of the growing gap between pay and productivity, even this transfer income has grown much more slowly in the post-1979 period relative to before.Further, transfer incomes are a much smaller share of typical household incomes than are labor earnings, so it would have taken a huge increase in these transfers to fully compensate for the near stagnation of hourly pay. Breaking the ever-upward spiral of inequality and the near stagnation of hourly wages will require relinking productivity growth and the pay of typical American workers.In short, it is not that the median worker’s productivity has stagnated (again, there is no evidence for this).Instead, it is that policymakers have tilted the labor market playing field so far toward employers that firms are able to recruit workers without offering rising compensation levels because the ability to earn higher pay has been undercut for workers in a generalized way.
Further, all observable measures of labor quality (educational attainment and potential experience, for example) have risen steadily since 1979 for groups of low- and moderate-wage workers.
Labor earnings constitute the predominant source of income for the middle-income families in the U. The entirety of the gap between productivity and hourly pay growth is income accruing somewhere in the economy besides the paychecks of typical workers.