Income Distribution in the United States: How It’s Changed Since the 1970s


Carter C. Price, Senior Mathematician

In the 50s and 60s, economic growth was really shared broadly across the distribution. That changed in the 70s.

Since the mid-70s, we've seen rising income inequality to the point where 90 percent of the population hasn't really seen much income growth in real terms for the last 45 years, whereas those at the top of the distribution have seen much, much faster income growth. And particularly when you compare that to how the economy used to grow, that difference in growth has been costing the bottom 90 percent of the population about $2.5 trillion, at least in 2018. And over the course of the last 43 years, that totals to about $47 trillion.