Earlier this morning I came across an interesting article from MSN Money discussing how the financial situation of most middle class families has not improved over the past decade. When comparing the year 1999 – the peak of the dot-com boom – to the recession of 2008 and 2009 it is easy to understand why so many families feel their finances are worse off now than they were a decade ago.
"This hasn't been a sterling decade," says Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and the author of "Creating an Opportunity Society." She argues that the American dream of prosperity and advancement has turned into a myth. "The average American family hasn't been able to improve its financial situation."
Of course, it's impossible to compare 1999 with 2009 without noting that in 1999, the economy was still floating happily in a dot-com bubble, while this year we've been mired in the worst recession since the Great Depression.
But experts say these are just details. They argue that dozens of indicators -- after adjusting for 30% inflation since 1999 -- have been marching in the wrong direction for years, in ways big and small:
In 1999, 67% of workers had to pay part of their health care benefits cost, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008, that had risen to 75%.
According to the Census Bureau, 10.3% of U.S. families lived under the poverty line in 2008, versus 9.3% in 1999.
Households in the bottom 10% made $12,181 or less in 2008, which was down 8.1% from 2000. But the threshold for household incomes in the top 5% was $180,000, down just 0.9% from 2000.