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Report: Lower paid men in Michigan have seen big income erosion since 1979

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A new report shows it’s getting harder for people in Michigan at the lower end of the pay scale.

Yannet Lathrop is a policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Her study finds the bottom 20% of Michigan's male wage earners have seen their real income, adjusted for inflation, drop by nearly a third since 1979.

“People are struggling to make ends meet because of that drop,” says Lathrop. “We are looking at the difference between poverty and not poverty.”

Lathrop says the real wages of women in the bottom 20% actually rose slightly (4.2%) during the last 35 years. But because women’s wages were drastically lower than men’s 35 years ago, women are still earning less than men even after men saw a third of their wages melt away.

“That is astonishing,” says Lathrop. “Women are still making less money.”

Lathrop says increasing Michigan’s minimum wage to more than $10 an hour would help. Michigan’s minimum wage is going up on Monday, but only to $8.15 an hour. The minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $9.25 by 2018.

Lathrop says increased spending on education may also help people rise above low-wage jobs. 

By comparison, Lathrop says Michiganders in the top 20% of wage earners have seen their real wages, adjusted for inflation, increase for men by 21.5%, and for women, 39.7%.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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