In the American Consumers Newsletter for February 11, 2010, Elizabeth Warren notes that the decline of the American middle class predated the recent recession:
Household income is down. Household income follows a trajectory, starting low among young adults, rising as people gain experience in their career, peaking in the 45-to-54 age group, then falling as people begin to retire. Householders aged 45 to 54 are still the nation's peak earners, but they stand atop a much smaller hill than they once did. Here is the thirty-year trend in the median income of householders aged 45 to 54 (in 2008 dollars):
Median Income, Householders Aged 45 to 54
That's right. The median household income of today's peak earners is only $197 more than the median income of the same age group in 1978. Their median income is $2,481 less than the income of the same age group in 1988. It is $7,080 less than the median income of the same age group in 1998. The stagnation and decline of the household incomes of peak earners has occurred despite growing numbers of working women. In 1978, only 57 percent of women aged 45 to 54 were in the labor force. Today, 76 percent are working.