New Census Data Show Middle Class Continues to Struggle – Union Membership Decline Is a Key Reason Why

Source: David Madland, Karla Walter, Nick Bunker, Center for American Progress, September 13, 2011

The middle class received close to the smallest share of the nation’s income it ever has since these data were first collected, according to Census data released today. In 2010, the middle 60 percent of all Americans garnered only 46 percent of the nation’s income, down from highs of around 53 percent in 1968….

There are many reasons for the dramatic weakening of the middle class, including technology, trade, and increasing returns to education. But a key–though too often overlooked–explanation is the decline in the percentage of the workforce that is unionized.

The figure below shows that the percentage of unionized workers tracks very closely with the share of the nation’s income going to the middle class–those in the middle three-fifths of income earners. As the percentage of workers in unions has declined, so has the middle class.

Leave a Reply