Overworked America: 12 Charts that Will Make Your Blood Boil


Illustration: Mark Matcho; Chart Artwork: Jeff Berlin


Why “efficiency” and “productivity” really mean more profits for corporations and less sanity for you.

— By Dave Gilson


In the past 20 years, the US economy has grown nearly 60 percent. This huge increase in productivity is partly due to automation, the internet, and other improvements in efficiency. But it’s also the result of Americans working harder—often without a big boost to their bottom lines. Oh, and meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent. (Also read our essay on the great speedup and harrowing first-person tales of overwork.)

Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

The sectors that have contributed the most to the country’s overall economic growth have lagged when it comes to creating jobs.

Increase in real value of the minimum wage since 1990:  21%
Increase in cost of living since 1990:  67%
One year’s earnings at the minimum wage:  $15,080
Income required for a single worker to have real economic security:  $30,000

For Americans as a whole, the length of a typical workweek hasn’t changed much in years. But for many middle-class workers, job obligations are creeping into free time and family time. For low-income workers, hours have declined due to a shrinking job market, causing underemployment.

Median yearly earnings of:
Union workers:  $47,684
Non-union workers:  $37,284

More and more, US multinationals are laying off workers at home and hiring overseas.



The US is part of a very small club of nations that don’t require…

A survey of employed email users finds:

22% are expected to respond to work email when they’re not at work. 50%

50% check work email on the weekends.

46% check work email on sick days.

34% check work email while on vacation.

Working moms pick up more child care and household duties than working dads—about 80 minutes more every day. Meanwhile, dads enjoy nearly 50 more minutes of watching TV and other leisure activities on a daily basis.


Thanks, guys—you’re pitching in more than twice as much as you did in the ’70s. But women still get stuck with the majority of work around the house.

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