America’s Emerging Job Imperative

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America’s Emerging Job Imperative

As a Trends subscriber you’re well aware that the world has never been more affluent and it’s only getting more so.  That’s especially beneficial to people at the top and the bottom of the global pyramid. The “global-5%” at the top is blessed with luxuries unimaginable by Louis XIV or even John D. Rockefeller; meanwhile, except in a few war-torn places, even the poorest are no longer haunted by the daily prospect of famine. 

Just consider the United States, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.  There, the overall economy has grown enormously: From 1975 to 2015, the nation’s real GDP increased three-fold.  And redistribution has enlarged even the smallest slices of the economic pie in absolute terms; specifically, spending on programs targeting low-income households have increased four-fold.  So, for Americans of all socioeconomic strata, material living standards as well as access to technology and consumer variety, have all marched steadily higher.

But, as explained by Oren Cass a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the things Americans thought they wanted, have not made them happy.  In fact, Americans nearly everywhere cite at least four clear symptoms of a sick society:

  • decades of stagnant wages,
  • shrinking labor-force participation,
  • too many unstable families, and
  • crumbling communities.

And this is not something new.  Years before the financial crisis that sparked the Great Recession, a majority of Americans began telling Gallup that they were, “in general, dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time.”

What Americans increasingly see is a system that does not provide meaning and purpose to the lives of 40-to-60% of the population.  And more and more people realize that their children are struggling and their neighbors are doing the same. 

Consider this.  Half of Americans born in 1980 were earning less at age thirty than their parents had made at that age.  Most Americans still do not complete even a community college degree, yet the median income of a high school graduate lifts a family of four less than 40 percent above the poverty line; but in the 1970s, such an earner would have cleared that threshold by three times as much.  And that’s for people who are working...

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