The Pew Research Center recently came out with a report confirming a fact the Occupy movement brought to the fore, and it bears repeating: the American middle class is shrinking.
In fact, Pew is calling 2000 to 2010 a “lost decade” for the middle class. They explain,
Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.
Analyzing data from other sources, Pew researchers found that median income for a middle class household of three dropped from $72,956 in 2001 to $69,487 in 2010 (all in 2011 dollars). On the other hand, the wealthy have taken a bigger slice of the pie. When it comes to wealth, the story is the same—the net worth of middle class households dropped dramatically over the same time period. As we’ve previously noted, the Waltons’ fortune has continued to rise in recent years while the median family’s net worth declined. As of 2010—the most recent year for which data is available—the Waltons had the same wealth as the bottom 42% of American families.
“America’s middle class has endured its worst decade in modern history,” Pew researchers said, according to Reuters.
The growing divide in our country is illustrated quite simply by Walmart, where the average Associate makes $8.81 an hour, or about $15,500 a year, while the Waltons make $2.7 billion in Walmart dividends this year. In short, the Waltons make the same amount as a full-time Walmart Associate in about 3 minutes. The Waltons, though, are in a fairly unique situation. They have the power to turn 1.4 million jobs into good jobs, at a time when the country is clearly hurting for them.