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The promise of market economics is supposed to be that as an economy grows, the paychecks of wage earners grow with it. But according to a new study, this is no longer the case.

Who’s hit hardest by the new unequal reality? Young people.

During the last economic expansion, the period dating from 1993 to 2005, a full 98 percent of workers saw their wages rise in the 25 major advanced economies around the world. Granted, the rise wasn’t evenly distributed, but the proverbial rising tide did lift most boats, at least slightly.

But from 2005 to 2014, the subsequent period encapsulating the Great Recession and so-called recovery, just a third of wage earners saw their incomes rise. The vast majority of earners – around 65 to 70 percent – saw their paychecks decline or stagnate. In the United States, the proportion with stagnant wages was a full 81 percent.

The new report, entitled “Poorer Than Their Parents? Flat Or Falling Incomes In Advanced Economies,” comes from the McKinsey Global Institute. As the title suggests, the study examined the prospects for over 800 million workers in the 25 wealthiest countries and found that the rising generation is at serious risk of ending up poorer than their parents.
Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.