America’s Workers Aren’t Paid Enough for Their Productivity

Set against the backdrop of the 1963 march's call for basic economic fairness, a new report highlights just how much work remains.

By Imara Jones Aug 22, 2013

Just days before the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, a Wednesday report released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) underscores the continued relevancy of the original 1963 gathering’s emphasis on economic justice.  

The EPI data shows that wages for the overwhelming majority of Americans during the past decade remained virtually flat.  In fact, according to the EPI, wage growth is down "regardless of occupation, gender race/ethnicity or education level." 

But what the Washington-based think tank points out about a fundamental disparity at the heart of the nation’s economy is even more shocking. 

The EPI document shows that though American workers have produced more and generated more income for the overall economy in the last decade, they are benefiting relatively little from it.


In fact worker productivity–the output per worker–is up almost 25 percent but wages are up barely 2 percent or 10 times less.  As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, Americans’ incomes are not increasing from the wealth that they produce because almost 90 percent of the gains in recent years went to the top 1 percent of income earners. The few are benefitting from the work of the many.

So if you haven’t felt the benefits of the economic boom from 2003-2007 or anytime since the recovery was proclaimed in 2010, the EPI report shows why.  And set against the backdrop of the 1963 march’s call for basic economic fairness, it highlights just how much work remains.