While the job market’s expansion is the best it’s been in at least 15 years, the same cannot be said for pay averages. Contrary to what had been forecasted, the wages of the average worker has decreased. This sets a new precedent as, historically, the unemployment rate is inversely proportional to wages, and it can no longer be used as an adequate guideline.
Economists agree that eventually the average earnings will rise. What is unclear is whether or not that also follow the historical trend, which was a doubling of the average middle-class worker’s wages in the period between WWII and the 1970s. At the time, the middle class workforce consisted of men with a high school degree.
What was a well-paying job in the past is no longer quite as lucrative—or even exists, in some cases. The average American clearly needs a higher education to match the higher skills required of a well-paying job in today’s market. The problem is that, unlike high school, higher education is not as accessible to all.
President Obama has made plans to make community college free for Americans. And maybe this half-step will have as large a pay-off as making high school free did a century ago.
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