Real Hourly Wages by Select Percentiles, 1973-2012, All Workers (2012 dollars)
Source: Economic Policy Institute's The State of Working America, 12th Edition. Data from Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata. Note: The xth-percentile wage is the wage at which x% of the wage earners earn less and (100-x)% earn more.
This graphic shows the growing earnings gaps among workers at various wage percentiles in 2012 dollars. In 1973, workers at the 20th percentile (or workers whose wages were lower than 80 percent of all workers) were making about $9.95 an hour. What's striking is that adjusted earnings for this group decreased slightly over the past 40 years to $9.89 in 2012.
In contrast, the earnings of those at the 80th percentile went from $24.02 in 1973 to $29.13 in 2011, a rise of 20 percent over 4 decades.
Wage earners at the 95th percentile saw their adjusted hourly wages grow from $37.87 in 1973 to $51.48 in 2012, an increase of nearly 36 percent. While these differences are most pronounced at the top and bottom, we see that wage levels for those at the 50th percentile (or the median for all workers) are nearly flat over the 4 decades. In fact, for workers at that level, real hourly wages have increased just 3%.