Over the past few weeks, it has become a common talking point at either major party's convention to talk about the lack of movement in USA citizens' wages since approximately the middle of the 1970s. For example, in Representative Joseph Kennedy III's introduction of Elizabeth Warren at the DNC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWmRPRg8cEA

[Elizabeth Warren] taught us that impact lay not in classrooms or textbooks, but in a society where wages have not budged in 40 years.

Warren herself repeated a similar claim in her speech, albeit within a mentioned time frame: https://youtu.be/f1N2KurzQsU?t=3m51s

I mean look around — Americans bust their tails, some working two or three jobs, but wages stay flat.


1 Answer 1


Wages in real US dollars were:

$22.41 in 1973.

$20.67 in 2014

enter image description here

See For most workers, real wages have barely budged for decades

For alternative measures, see Reconciling the divergence in aggregate U.S. wage series.

  • 7
    The graph in the link shows wages increased slightly from 1964 to 2014. Cherry-picking a starting point and an ending point can make it look better or worse. If the question is "40 years" use that data. But still it is arguably "essentially flat".
    – GEdgar
    Jul 29, 2016 at 18:18
  • 5
    Note that that pretty much excludes the top earners--who are normally salaried, not hourly. Jul 29, 2016 at 19:50
  • 5
    This chart from XKCD seems to be fairly accurate.
    – Joe L.
    Jul 29, 2016 at 23:33
  • 5
    Note that this excludes benefits, which have grown more expensive over the same time frame.
    – Brythan
    Jul 31, 2016 at 4:16
  • 4
    One could argue that employment costs have risen substantially but the gains have been entirely eaten up by healthcare costs leaving nothing for the actual take home pay.
    – matt_black
    Jul 31, 2016 at 17:04

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