There's a reason Middle Americans believe the system is rigged against them -- and in favor of so-called coastal elites.
The forces of technological change and globalization that have transformed the U.S. economy during the past four decades have fueled demand for highly skilled professions that tend to concentrate in cities along the East and West Coasts -- while pushing manufacturing jobs that required less education to other countries or enabling employers to fill the positions with machines.
"Since the early 1980s, skilled workers, particularly those with college degrees and graduate degrees have increasingly located in large urban areas that offer amenities and higher wages," Jaison R. Abel, the head of regional analysis at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a news briefing on Thursday, Aug. 10.
Additionally, wage growth in the 35 years through 2015 has been concentrated in the top earning sectors. Pay increased 57% at the 90th percentile of wage earners -- the level above 90% of all workers -- and just 24% at the 10th percentile, the level at the opposite end of the spectrum where pay is higher than just 10% of all employees.
That trend has, ultimately, created the greatest inequality in metro areas with the highest income levels. In the New York region, for example, the Fairfield County, Conn., area -- the former headquarters of General Electric Co. (GE) and the home of digital office supplier Xerox (XRX) -- has the widest gap, with workers at the 90th percentile earning 8.7 times more than those at the 10th.