Raising the Median Wage: Policies That Target the Middle Class

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The median wage is a lot like what Mark Twain supposedly said about the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

This is ironic, because politicians are always going on about how much they want to help the middle class, and some of them actually mean it. But it’s harder than you think.

As you see in the figure above, the median, or 50th percentile, real hourly wage for men is lower than it was decades ago. The median female worker has gained more over time, but her progress stalled over a decade ago. And the current recovery has not been good at all to the median wage earner.

Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow.  From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of deputy chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. He is the author and co-author of numerous books, including “Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?” and nine editions of “The State of Working America.”