Politics Magazine

Education Matters In An Unfair Economy

Posted on the 21 October 2013 by Jobsanger
Education Matters In An Unfair Economy As the chart above shows, since about 1980 (when the GOP instituted its "trickle-down" economic policy) the income growth in the United States has gone mostly to the richest Americans -- with almost all of that growth going to the richest 20%, and the biggest chunk of growth going to the top 1% to 5%. The bottom 80% of Americans have seen their incomes become stagnant, and when inflation is considered they have actually lost ground. This is resulting in a vast gap of wealth and income between the richest people in this country and everyone else -- the biggest gap since before the Great Depression.
That is an established fact, and shows just how unfair the economy has become because of those Republican policies. But what about the small portion of income growth not grabbed by the wealthy? Is that portion evenly distributed? Who are the winners and losers in the bottom 80% to 90%? The Pew Research Center looked at that in a recent survey (using data from the U.S. Census). Their findings are reflected in the charts below.
Education Matters In An Unfair Economy
Education Matters In An Unfair Economy It turns out that the biggest determining factor in income growth outside of the rich has been education. Note that the share of the nation's aggregate income has dropped for those with less than a high school education by 7 points (from 12% to 5%), and has also dropped for those with a high school degree by 8 points (from 28% to 20%) -- meaning that these two groups combined now get only 25% of the nation's total income.
The big winners were those with at least a Bachelor's degree. Their share of the nation's aggregate income has grown from about 37% to 50% -- half of the national income. Those with some college (or an Associate's degree) have pretty much just held their own, and get 25% of the national income.
But the bottom chart is the most interesting. It shows the income growth of the people with differing education levels in the last twenty years (from 1991 to 2012). Note that the only groups that have seen a growth in their incomes are those with a Bachelor's degree or higher (with Bachelor's earners seeing growth of 9%, Master's incomes grew 10%, Doctorate's incomes grew 14%). The group with the highest income growth (20%) were those getting professional degrees (law, medicine, etc.).
But the economy has left anyone with less than a Bachelor's degree behind, as all of  those groups saw an income reduction of 4% to 5%. Thanks to the GOP trickle-down policies, these groups are no longer being allowed to share in the productivity growth of the nation (and have actually seen the rich grab a small portion of what they had).
I don't really have a problem with education being rewarded. Those who spend years getting more education should be rewarded with higher salaries (since they have sacrificed to make themselves more valuable as employees). But I have a big problem with those without a higher education degree not being allowed to share at all in the nation's rising productivity. The nation needs those workers, and they labor contributes to that rising productivity. It is an economic crime to shut them out completely.
We now have a very unfair economy, and that unfairness extends past just the rich getting more than their share of productivity gains. Trickle-down doesn't just unfairly reward the rich -- it punishes other Americans for not being rich (especially those with an education). We need to fix this, but the Republicans have made it clear that can't happen until they are voted out of power.

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