Just the Facts :: Why we can’t go back to the old economy

We’re manufacturing money, not goods

The U.S. economy was strong in 1950. A quarter of GDP came from manufacturing. Now the biggest sector is finance and real estate—making money from money.

 


 

YES! Magazine graphic: Just the Facts graph

You need college to get ahead

Manufacturing jobs used to provide a good living. Now, you’re stuck if you don’t have a degree. Annual income for those without a high school diploma has dropped 25%.

 


 

YES! Magazine graphic: Just the Facts graph

But college is harder to afford

In the last 30 years, average tuition for public 4-year university increased 430%. For private university, 380%. Increase in median family income in that time? 10%.

 

 


 

 

YES! Magazine graphic: Just the Facts graph

We’re using up the Earth

Ecological footprints measure how much land and water it takes to provide for humans. If everyone consumed like the U.S. , we’d need about 5 Earths.

 



And confusing needs and wants

Consumer culture confuses wants and needs. In the bubble economy, we got needy. The bubble’s popped and we’re rethinking the meaning of “necessity.”

 

 

YES! Magazine graphic: Just the Facts graph

2009 YES! MAGAZINE GRAPHIC


SOURCES:

WE’RE MANUFACTURING MONEY, NOT GOODS ::

Manufacturing made up the biggest share of the GDP in 1950. By 2008, the financial sector had taken its place.
Gross-Domestic-Product-by-Industry Accounts, 1947-2008, Value Added by Industry as a Percentage of GDP
Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, April 2009


YOU NEED COLLEGE TO GET AHEAD ::

A person with a college degree earns more than twice as much as a person without a high-school diploma.
Median annual earnings of full-time, full-year wage and salary workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment, sex, and race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1980–2006
National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education,


BUT COLLEGE IS HARDER TO AFFORD ::

College tuition outpaces growth in family income.
Financing the Dream: Securing College Affordability for the Middle Class, Middle Class Task Force, Office of the Vice President of the United States, April 2009
[PDF]

Year-by-year inflation-adjusted tuition statistics show growth in public and private college costs.
Trends in College Pricing, The College Board, 2008


WE’RE USING UP THE EARTH ::

If everyone lived like Americans, we’d need about five Earths.
Living Planet Report 2006, World Wildlife Fund

Global ecological footprint, in billions of acres; global population 2008
Data Tables, Global Footprint Network


AND CONFUSING WANTS WITH NEEDS ::

U.S. consumers’ ideas of luxury and necessity shift with a down economy.
Luxury or Necessity? The Public Makes a U-Turn, by Rich Morin and Paul Taylor, PEW Research Center, April 23, 2009


CALCULATE YOUR OWN ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ::

 


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Just the Facts :: Why We Can't Go Back
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This article first appeared as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine.

Interested? See more YES! Fact Sheets.

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