Why Income Inequality Has Skyrocketed In The Last 30 Years

American income inequality has skyrocketed over the last 30 years, as compensation for the wealthiest Americans has grown while wages have stagnated for the middle- and lower-classes. Incomes for the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans are now eight times higher than incomes for the bottom 20 percent, according to a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute. The gap between the rich and poor has grown because incomes for the top 20 percent grew at an annual pace that exceeded the total growth of incomes for the bottom 20 percent over a 30 year period.

From the late 1970s until the 2000s, the richest 20 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by $2,550 a year. By contrast, the bottom 20 percent saw total income growth of just $1,330 over the entire three-decade period the two organizations studied:


Pay for chief executives has risen 127 times faster than worker pay over that three-decade period, according to another recent study. Worker pay has failed to keep up with productivity gains in the workplace, and the minimum wage has failed to keep up with the buying power it once had. Low-wage jobs, meanwhile, are becoming more prevalent, pushing wages for low-income workers down even more. At the same time, tax rates for the wealthy have fallen, and while the wealthy have experienced a solid recovery from the Great Recession, middle- and low-income Americans have largely been left behind.