Inequality is growing in the United States. In recent decades, the bulk of income growth has gone to the top 10% of families. That was not always the case. Throughout most of the 20th Century, and particularly following World War II when more than 1/3 of all workers were represented by unions, the bottom 90% claimed a much larger share of income growth than they have in recent years.
The chart below from Economic Policy Institutes's’s new interactive State of Working America Web site, compares the distribution of income growth over two periods.
Between 1948 and 1979, a period of strong overall economic growth and productivity in the United States, the richest 10% of families accounted for 33% of average income growth, while the bottom 90% accounted for 67%. The middle class grew and the overall distribution of income was stable for these three decades.
In an extreme contrast, during the most recent economic expansion between 2000 and 2007, the period that led up to the Great Recession, the richest 10% accounted for a full 100% of average income growth. During the same period, average incomes for the bottom 90% of households actually declined.