First, the good news: a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says that, while not as robust as it could be, the U.S. has had one of the strongest economic recoveries in the developed world since 2008.
Now, for the not-so-good news: a few key groups are missing out on that progress.
"Income inequality continues to increase, women typically receive lower salaries than men, and some groups are disadvantaged in the labour market with little prospect to return to work, notably those with criminal records," the report states.
The conclusion that income inequality is a concern in the U.S. shouldn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the 2016 presidential campaign. The OECD found that America's Gini index, a measurement used to keep track of income inequality in a nation, is continuing to go up.
Another issue OECD found is dropping rates of female participation in the labor force. While more of them are entering the workforce in other countries, more are leaving it in the U.S. The report cites a lack of a national paid maternity leave policy in the U.S. for keeping many women from work.
There are also clear racial disparities, especially between blacks and whites, in employment and wages. The U.S. already has the highest incarceration rate of all the countries who are OECD members, and the OECD pointed out the increased difficulty black people who have served a prison sentence have in finding work.
Seems like the economy's in great shape, as long as you're not poor, a woman or a person of color. If you are, here are a few of the policy recommendations in the report:
- Invest more in public infrastructure improvement.
- Improve equal access to education.
- Require paid parental leave and improve access to childcare.
- Raise the minimum wage.
- Reduce screening for criminal records on job applications.
Congress will get right on all of that, surely.