Daniel Gross asks in today's New York Times why so few people think the US economy is doing well, despite a string of robust-looking statistics: When Sweet Statistics Clash With a Sour Mood (free registration required). But it was the accompanying chart which really made the point.
To see how typical workers are doing, it's better to look at median wages and incomes — the midpoint that separates the top 50 percent from the lower 50 percent. And median income, which was stagnant during President Bush's first term, is struggling to keep pace with inflation. "Median household income has gone nowhere since the turn of the decade," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.
...This dichotomy accurately describes the economy. From 2001 to 2004, the average net worth of an American family rose 6.3 percent, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances. But not everybody grew richer. For the bottom 40 percent of families by income, the median net worth fell. "It just doesn't resonate with people when the Treasury secretary says everything is fine," Mr. Zandi said. "It's fine for half the population, and it's clearly not for the other half."