Middle-Class Wage Stagnation Is a First-World Problem – The World is Getting Richer

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A common lament during the presidential campaign was middle-class income stagnation and the wealth of the top 1%. But are most people getting poorer while the rich get richer? In a sparkling – and delightfully short – new contribution to the econo-optimist genre, Johan Norberg, author of Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, emphatically answers “no.”

Consider the following:

  • In 1981, “extreme” poverty – living on an income of $1.90, or less, per person per day in today’s money – characterized 52% of the world’s population. Today, the comparable figure is 12% of a much larger population.
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  • Global life expectancy at birth has more than doubled since 1900. It is now 71 years, more than that of the United States in 1965.
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  • The environment is better adapted to human life. “In 1981,” writes Norberg, “half of the world’s population had access to safe water. Now, 91 per cent do. On average, that means that 285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the past 25 years.”

 
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