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One simple question—are wages rising?—is as central to the health of our democracy as it is to the health of our economy. This book presents evidence and analysis that detail why wages have been stagnant for so many workers, while also identifying public policies that could effectively contribute to the growth in productivity and wages that are core parts of improving living standards for all Americans. These proposals include greater support for policies that increase human capital, boost worker mobility, strengthen worker bargaining power, and sustain robust labor demand.
Wages have stagnated in recent decades for typical workers. While a number of economic, policy, and technological developments bear some responsibility, economists have grown increasingly concerned that declining dynamism is an important cause. Declining dynamism may suggest a role for public policy in establishing the conditions for workers to successfully climb the job ladder.
One of the best measures economists use to determine Americans’ economic advancement is whether wages are rising, broadly and consistently. This document highlights the necessary conditions for broadly shared wage growth, trends closely related to stagnation in wages for many workers, and the recent history of wage growth, with an emphasis on the experience of the Great Recession and recovery. It concludes by discussing how public policies can effectively contribute to the growth in wages that is a core part of improving living standards for all Americans.