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Are incomes really stagnant? Pew study indicates they’re moving ahead

Twenty dollar bills sit in a wallet on August 29, 2017 in San Anselmo, California.
Twenty dollar bills sit in a wallet on August 29, 2017 in San Anselmo, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A new Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data released last month found, unlike common belief, average household incomes are not stagnant and that wages for most Americans have actually gone up historically.

The collapse of the housing market a decade ago hit many homeowners hard. But according to Pew economist Richard Fry most working Americans now have higher incomes than before the Great Recession of 2008.

The Pew study indicates that incomes are moving ahead but slowly. Meanwhile, the median incomes for American households had declined about 3 percent since 2007. The Pew economist attributes this contradiction to a decline in income among retirees.

While retirees’ incomes typically drop, they seem to maintain a comfortable life thanks to a combination of social security benefits and a lifetime of savings. We talk to economists about the state of the economy, is wage stagnation overstated? We question if we are richer than we think.


Richard Fry, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, who crunched the numbers of a recent Federal Reserve study and found that Generation X is the only generation to recover the wealth lost after the 2008 housing crash

Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics; his focus includes economic forecasting, employment and labor markets and economic policy