Labor, The Economy

In a recent interview on Now, Doug Henwood discussed just how small the American middle class is, compared with other developed countries:

BRANCACCIO: You’re full of surprises here, Mr. Henwood. You also just mentioned that the middle class is small? I mean, I’ve seen those statistics. The ones that show that if you ask Americans most of them say they’re middle class.

HENWOOD: Yes, you’re right. That most… many Americans, a very large majority of them probably think of themselves as middle class. But if you look at… if you define this strictly in income terms, incomes you know, around the average, we have the smallest percentage of our population in that middle income category of any of the developed countries from which the numbers exist.

Since the graph in his book makes the point so strikingly, I thought I’d scan it in and cut it up so you can see what he’s talking about here:

Percentage poor:
(For those who can’t read it clearly, the lighter half of the bars are poor” and the darker half is near poor.”)

Percentage middle class:

Percentage wealthy:

What all this shows, and what he doesn’t have time to say on T.V., is that not only do we have a relatively small middle class, but we are near the top in terms of both the number of poor and the number of extremely rich. Which, of course, means that we are one of the most economically polarized countries of all the developed nations.

Fellow Taiwan buffs will be interested to notice that Taiwan is smack in the middle of all three charts.

Click here for full graph with explanatory text: