Study: Families Making More Money, But Working Longer For It

By BridgeNews Despite increases in the incomes and stock holdings of middle-class families in the 1990s, there was also a lengthening of the workweek and rising personal debt, according to a report released Sept. 4 by the Economic Policy Institute. The rise in middle-class family income since 1989 was largely a result of increasing work hours. The increase in the typical household's stock holdings grew by less than half as much as household debt, in dollar amounts, according to The State of Working America 2000-2001, published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington think-tank. "Persistent low unemployment and increases in the minimum wage have helped workers at the bottom recover from 15 years of wage stagnation and decline," says Lawrence Mishel, the institute's vice president. "However, some alarming trends persist as wage and income inequality remain high, families are working more hours than ever and are saddled with the highest levels of debt in history." While a middle-class, married-couple family's income grew 9.2% from 1989 to 1998, the institute said, family work hours increased by 6.8%, or about six extra full-time weeks per year. While the value of stock holdings grew by $5,500, typical household debt increased by $11,800, the institute said. Income inequality grew throughout the decade, though less so in the late 1990s. Average hourly wages grew; the value of employer-paid health insurance and pensions fell; overall poverty rates fell for blacks, Hispanics, and whites; and entry-level wages grew substantially. Wage growth, however, has not kept pace with productivity.

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