November 18, 2013
Rising Inequality Lifting Some Virginians, Sinking Others
Looking at trends in the median wage over the past 30 years makes Virginia look like a great place to make a living. But a scan of the entire wage landscape shows big wage gains for top earners, and big losses for workers on the bottom.
Disparate growth in wages has been trending for decades in Virginia, with the top earners getting farther ahead and lower earners falling behind. As a result, Virginia faces record levels of inequality that threaten the state’s economic stability and long-term prosperity because the middle class and low-income households that make up most of the population aren’t earning enough to buy the goods and services the economy is capable of producing.
This report takes a deep dive into the latest Census data to shed light on what’s really happening with workers’ wages in Virginia.
Among the key findings of the report:
- Over the last 30 years, median wages in Virginia have grown 24 percent, taking account of inflation. But wages for the top 10 percent of earners grew 19 times as fast as those at the bottom.
- Since 2007, only workers earning the median or higher have seen their wages grow in Virginia.
- In 2012, the top 10 percent earned 2.7 times as much as the median worker. Only California had a larger disparity.
- After a slight narrowing of the gap between male and female median wages during the recession, that progress started to unravel in 2012, setting back gains for women to pre-recession level.