The Agenda to Raise America’s Pay
There is now widespread agreement across the political spectrum that wage stagnation is the country’s key economic challenge. Wages for the vast majority of American workers have stagnated or declined since 1979—and wage stagnation’s reach has broadened over the last dozen years to include college-educated workers.
This is not a crisis of overall income growth. Over the same period that most workers’ wages have stagnated, economy-wide productivity has risen by 64 percent. In short, the potential has existed for adequate, widespread wage growth over the last three-and-a-half decades—but these economic gains have not trickled down to the vast majority.
As EPI’s Raising America’s Pay initiative shows, wage stagnation is not inevitable. It is the direct result of public policy choices on behalf of those with the most power and wealth that have intentionally suppressed wage growth.
Because wage suppression stems from intentional policy choices, it can be reversed by making different policy choices. To boost Americans’ wages, policymakers must intentionally tilt bargaining power back toward low- and moderate-wage workers. The following policies will generate robust wage growth and ensure that America’s prosperity is broadly shared.
1. Raise the minimum wage
2. Update overtime rules