Sheila Bair’s graph of the year: For many Americans, there’s been no recovery at all

December 30, 2013

Time has its "Person of the Year." Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year. Buzzfeed has its insane-stories-from-Florida of the year. And Wonkblog, of course, has its graphs of the year. For 2013, we asked some of the year's most interesting, important and influential thinkers to name their favorite graph of the year — and why they chose it. Here's Sheila Bair's.


This chart, drawn from a report by the Sentier Research Group, shows that for a large number of American households, there has been no economic recovery. Caught in a vice of chronic unemployment and falling wages, real median household income (excluding capital gains and losses but including cash government benefits) has declined 4.4% since the “recovery” began in 2009. For many households, the drop has been more severe.  For African-American households, it is 10.9%.  For those under 25 years old, it is 9.6%.  For single females with children, it is 7.5%. Indeed, the only households to experience an increase in real income are those 65 to 74 years old.

So as the investor class celebrates the stock market’s bubbly 25% gain in 2013 courtesy of quantitative easing, let’s not forget the plight of those Americans who work for a living. And in 2014, let’s face up to the ineffectiveness of monetary policy to help them and the desperate need for fiscal leadership to generate real, sustainable growth.

- Sheila C. Bair served as Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from June 2006 through June 2011. She's a Senior Advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a columnist for Fortune, and author of "Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself".

See all the graphs of 2013 here, including entries from Bill GatesJonathan FranzenPatty MurrayTyler CowenBill McKibbenEmily OsterTa-Nehisi CoatesBrian GreeneChuck Schumer,  Chris Hayes, and Ron Wyden.

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