LettersLiberal Democracy in Question

Since Reagan, Older Workers in Rust-Belt States Flipped from Economic Winners to Losers

The unemployment rate for older workers age 55 is quite low – 3.5 % about 25% lower than the rate for all Americans of every age. And more good news — real earnings for older workers across the nation are increasing.  

But the rosy news hides the downward mobility of workers in particular parts of the nation. Older workers and their communities have been blasted in the four states that unexpectedly flipped the Presidential election for Donald Trump.  

Older workers have suffered long-run stagnation and decline in the four rust-belt states — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Before Reagan, older workers in these four states received higher wages than older workers in the rest of the country. Now they are doing worse. In 1979, rust-belt older workers were making $3,600 more than their counterparts elsewhere. In 2015, they were earning $4,000 less. Between 1979 and 2015, the median real wage for older workers in the four rust-belt states that flipped to Trump increased only 1% compared to 17% in the rest of the U.S.

Stagnant and declining real wages erode workers’ ability to save for retirement and increase their reliance on Social Security. To address the economic insecurities of working families, the Trump administration needs to fulfill his promise to create paths to a economic security. The path fdr retirement by expanding Social Security and providing universal access to secure retirement plans through Guaranteed Retirement Accounts.

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Teresa Ghilarducci

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