(A response to Forbes’ Scott Winship)
By Pavlina Tcherneva (revised 10/10/14, 10/11/14)
For the last few years, I’ve been studying the recovery and the kind of monetary and fiscal policies that are conventionally used to deal with recessions. One of the questions I considered was not just how we grow, but who benefits. The answer to the first question, I argue, provides insights into the second.
Examining the widely-used Piketty-Saez data, I found that the way we grow in the U.S. brings inequality. Namely, with virtually every postwar expansion, a greater and greater share of the average income growth has gone to the wealthy 10% of families. In the immediate postwar era a declining share of growth went to the bottom 90% of families (a trend not to be ignored), but they still captured the bulk of the growth in average incomes. Since 1980, however, the majority share has gone to the rich, while in the latest expansion they captured 116% of that income growth. This seemingly absurd result is due to the fact that incomes of the bottom 90% of families during the 2009-2012 period have been shrinking.