US Workers: Overworked, Underpaid & Left Behind

working-hours.jpgIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

An article on CNN’s website notes Americans work harder than almost all workers in the rest of the world. Boston College economist Juliet Schor, author of “The Overworked American“, has called the U.S. “the world’s standout workaholic nation.” According to Schor, average working hours in the U.S. rose nearly 12% between 1973 and 2000.

And it shows.

According to the US Bureau of Nat’l Economic Accounts, GDP per capita in the U.S. has rocketed from $15,688 per person in 1964 to $37,807 per person in 2006. Schor notes that productivity of the U.S. worker has more than doubled since 1948. “We could now produce our 1948 standard of living (measured in terms of marketed goods and services) in less than half the time it took in that year,” Schor writes.

So Americans are working harder and longer than most of the world and past generations. That means they’re rolling in the dough, right?

Think again.

Here’s another sobering statistic from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 1964 to 2006, worker earnings per week have actually fallen. In 1964, U.S. workers earned $302.52 per week (in 1982 dollars). In 2006, that figure has fallen to $279.19 (in 1982 dollars).

earnings-x-gdp.jpgThis raises the question, if U.S. workers aren’t seeing proportionate benefits of their hard work, where is it all going?

Edward N. Wolff is an Economics Professor at New York University. Professor Wolff maintains a website with extensive statistics and published papers. According to one paper entitled “Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S.“, as of 1998, the top 1% of the U.S. held 38.1% of the nation’s wealth. The total number of households with a net worth of $1 mil. or more increased from 2.4 mil. in 1983 to 5.9 mil. in 2001. Households with a net worth of $10 mil. or more increased from 66,500 in 1983 to 338,400 in 2001.

As they say, the rich only get richer. Happy Thanksgiving, I hope your boss lets you take a few days off.

For more information, go to:

Working Life blog
UN Int’l Labour Organization


  1. Sheryl on July 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I’m working as a caregiver. I used to work in an office in the comic book industry. I now make $23.32 a day 20 hours a day 6 days a week. It’s not worth it. I’d rather be dead.

Leave a Comment