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Economic Numbers Improve, But Some Americans Feel 'Left Behind'

20 September, 2016

Americans are still frustrated with the economy although new economic information suggests people are working and pay is higher.

Many people say the economic recovery has left them behind. They say they plan to voice their frustrations when they vote in the presidential election in November.

Denise Alber from Stafford County in the state of Virginia is one of those people.

She has two college degrees. She has decided not to work and to help her 98-year-old mother. Together, they receive a fixed income of nearly $25,000 a year. That total is just above the poverty rate for a family of two.

She says the price for food, gasoline and electricity have increased, but her family's income has not gone up.

"It's been very, very difficult to maintain that same standard of living, we have not maintained it."

Alber believes that the middle class is not being treated fairly.

Economic numbers show improvement

New government data show that family incomes rose over five percent in 2015. That is the largest increase since 2007.

That increase is another indication that the U.S. recovery continues.

However, economists say incomes remain nearly two percent below levels in 2007, before the start of the Great Recession.

Maya MacGuineas is the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She understands why many Americans feel like the recovery has left them behind. She said Americans once took a job and the salary grew until retirement.

"I don't think it feels like that anymore."

Economists say it is that sense of betrayal that is driving much of the anger during this election season. Some dissatisfaction is caused by a feeling that middle class incomes have remained the same while wealthy families have prospered.

Elise Gould is senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. She says the difference between the highest and lowest earners has increased since the recession.

"The top five percent is still the only group that has completely returned back to their 2000 levels. So they've made up lost ground. There's inequality across the income distribution."

Some economists blame the lack of an economic recovery for all on political disagreements in Washington.

That is one of the reasons Denise Alper says the next election is so important. But, she is not hopeful that the leading candidates will be able to provide results.

"In terms of the economy or politics, I'm very despondent in that regard. I don't think either candidate will help the middle class."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Mil Arcega at VOA News wrote this story. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or visit our 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

frustratev. to cause someone to feel angry, discouraged or upset because of not being able to do something

Great Recessionn. a sharp decline in economic activity during the late 2000s

betrayaln. to hurt someone by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong

prosperv. to become very successful usually by making a lot of money

recessionn. a period of time in which there is a decrease in economic activity and many people do not have jobs

despondentadj. very sad and without hope