The distribution of income deserves more attention. One reason why college seems less affordable is that average real wages for young people have fallen since the 1970s whereas tuition has risen. A lot. Of course, the average college student doesn’t even pay off their college loan until around the age 34 and that is when the average American finally sees some real wage growth, but even this is skewed toward the elites in each group because this is using mean income.
The Census also has official median income data for the same people. Surprisingly, it tells almost the identical story except it is slightly more optimistic. Median income has risen slightly faster than in the Mother Jones chart above! I wish I had time to get the data and try to replicate the above chart too.
Whereas the Americans over 65 look like they are doing great financially, they have actually just been catching up with everyone else above age 24:
Median income looks very different than percent change of income. Now the over-65-year-olds don’t look so lucky.