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...But what was this thing called the American Dream? What made it uniquely American? For some, the dream was Americans’ belief that their economy was a cornucopia of goods sure to bring a standard of living unimaginable in other economies: the dream of unrivalled plenty and comfort. But, while America had a superior wage level in the 1700s, Britain nearly closed the wage gap with America by the 1880s, and Germany came almost as close by 1913. Germany and France caught up with America by the 1970s. For some economists, the dream was the hope of an improving standard of living: the dream of progress. The economist Raj Chetty has been gauging the improvement people have made over what their parents had. He found that in 1940, nearly all young Americans—90% of them, to be precise—had a household income higher than their parents had when they were young. That high percentage largely reflects America’s rapid productivity growth, which boosted wage rates. ...Live Mint on Sept. 10, 2017, 11:57 p.m.
...Disaffected voters are behind both changes. For decades, Americans believed that they were riding a magic carpet of economic growth, owing to advances in science and, later, to the rise of Silicon Valley. In fact, growth in total factor productivity has been slow since the early 1970s. The 1996-2004 Internet boom was only a fleeting departure from the trend. Over time, as businesses have cut back on investment in response to diminishing returns, growth in labour productivity and hourly wages has slowed, and workers in many households have dropped out of the workforce. This is the “secular stagnation” that the economist Alvin Hansen once described. It has not particularly affected established wealth, because ultra-low interest rates have led share prices to skyrocket. ...Live Mint on Feb. 9, 2017, 5 a.m.