But here’s the amazing fact. Our job market has accommodated over 40 million more women in the workforce since 1960. The number of full-time, year-round women in the workforce has grown more than 350 percent, to 42.8 million workers, according to 2010 Census data. And the median income for year-round female workers has increased to $42,839, about $5,000 short of full-time, year-round male workers at $47,715. Since 1967, the year the Census Bureau started to report these data, women in the workforce have grown by 27.7 million jobs, men by 19.7 million. Women are the big winners in terms of job growth.
Yet we barely notice this remarkable job growth record and transformative social phenomenon.
There is a lot of talk about the “99 percent” vs. the “1 percent.” The rich have always been disproportionate owners of the total wealth. But an entire intellectual and political infrastructure is used to exaggerate and distort income disparity. A fact from the 2010 Census: Since 1967, median household income has grown in all income levels above $75,000 and has decreased in all income levels below that threshold. The largest increase is among those making $100,000 to $149,999 a year — a threefold increase. Those in the highest quintile account for 50.2 percent of total U.S. household income, with a mean of $169,633. That share of household income was 43.6 percent in 1967 and in 2001 broke the 50 percent mark. Should we be concerned by this consolidation of wealth? Maybe. But we’re not quite in need of the French Revolution.
Another often-cited “proof” of inequality in America is the share of national income earned by the top 1 percent. In 1968 it was 11 percent; in 1988, 15 percent; and, according to the IRS, in 2008 it was 21 percent. As of 2009, it had fallen to 17 percent. There is widespread misunderstanding about whom the top 1 percent of earners really means. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, in 2011 the 1 percenter made $532,613 in annual cash income. In 2004, the 1 percent made $459,247 cash income. When you adjust for family size, the top 1 percent made, on average, $335,779 a year. This is not small change, but it’s a far cry from the Robber Barons and the inequality of the Gilded Age.
If there is an income divide in America it is over education, and this makes sense: People who are better educated should make more money. The 2010 Census shows that since 2002, among those 25 or older, the number of people with a bachelor’s degree rose 16 percent, to 47.7 million. The median income for a male with a bachelor’s degree or more is $63,265. That same cohort with full-time employment increases the median to $71,778.