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The Disappearing Act of the Magical Middle Wage Job

Written By: A. Coffin

Ever since the recession of 2007/2009, middle class jobs have pulled a disappearing act in the US. When the recession was ‘officially’ declared over, in 2010, the expectation was that these middle wage jobs would come back. Jobs were created at the end of the recession, but they were low wage jobs, or in some cases, high wage jobs. It appears that the magical middle wage jobs may have vanished forever. What’s really going on here?

Social Upheaval and Manufacturing Jobs

This loss of the middle wage job may, in fact, signal a true change in society, and how our wages relate to our lives. Kelly McEvers, a reporter who has covered revolutions in many parts of the world, returned to her small home town of Lincoln, Illinois, to discover a societal upheaval brewing there.

Manufacturing jobs, which used to be the mainstay of the Midwest, and indeed, the lifeblood of most American towns, are gone, and they aren’t being replaced with middle wage jobs. In these towns, populations are shrinking, younger families aren’t moving in, and the population is aging. In short, with no middle wage jobs, those stuck in those towns are without decent earning potential, and without hope. Crime rates have skyrocketed, and drug trafficking is seen as a growth industry.

But there are jobs. Every week we hear that jobs are being created.

When reporter Kelly McEvers stepped off the train in Lincoln, Ill., she asked,
When reporter Kelly McEvers stepped off the train in Lincoln, Ill., she asked, "What happened to my hometown?"

Case-in-point: Walmart

Walmart has job opportunities. They are frequently low wage, entry level jobs. Walmart has been taken to task for these low wage, seemingly dead end jobs, as not providing a decent living to their employees. But is it really Walmart’s fault?

If Walmart were to increase wages to $15 per hour, which has been what’s suggested, their business model would likely collapse. Walmart’s business model is to have low cost products and save the consumer money, so the consumer can live better, not pay higher wages so their employees can live better. People shop at Walmart because of low prices, not because of employee career paths.

Photo of Middle class Homes
Modern Middle Class Neighborhood

Entry-Level Jobs—Not Middle Wage Jobs

The fact is that these jobs were never supposed to be career paths. They were always meant to be entry-level jobs, part time jobs for teenagers, or for young adults starting life. These jobs were to provide the first step up the ladder of work, where people moved up to more stable, long term, middle wage jobs – the type that middle America could use to earn a decent wage and raise a family – all without being Wall Street gurus. The problem is that the middle wage steps are missing on the work ladder, leaving families clinging to those bottom rungs.

Is the middle wage job gone forever? It’s hard to say. New cottage industries, the ability to build locally and market globally, and better communication strategies all may help these middle wage jobs appear again. But for the moment, their disappearing act makes this change in our society very visible.


Other Articles of Interest:

Us and Them: Breaking down the Walls Between Management and Workers

The Bad Karma of Walmart

Millennials in the Mirror

Do You Trust Walmart?

Cheap Price = Cheap Product: Recall Alert


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