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Occupy Wall Street One Year Later: Workers' Pay Dropped, CEOs' Soared

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Here, the top stories from the week that illustrate the space dividing Americans.

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America bills itself as a land of opportunity, and the slogan still may be true in so many ways in 2012. But many see a persistent and growing inequality in both the labor force and standard of living. The gap between the "two Americas" has been an issue on the left for years, and was a catalyst for the Occupy Wall Street movement, which this past week marked its one-year anniversary.

It remains an open debate whether the government has a role in such matters. But as the participants in the nebulous class movement continue to try and shine a light on the economic gulf in America between the "99 percent" and the privileged 1 percent, AOL Jobs collected top stories from the week that illustrate the space dividing Americans.

The Great Divide

The progressive blog, ThinkProgress, featured 10 charts this week that depict an America in which the haves are continuing to distance themselves from the have-nots. Last year alone saw income drop for all Americans, except for the top 20 percent of wage-earners. And as many workers can attest, the drop in salaries is accompanied by an uptick of hours on the job. The average hourly wage has been stagnant for US workers since 1972, but productivity, measured by the Economic Policy Institute in hours on the job, has doubled in that time.

Is anyone doing well? Yes. CEO pay has increased 127 times faster than that of the average worker over the past 30 years. As for opportunities for jobs? Those are increasing almost exclusively in low-wage fields, with hiring in retail, accommodations and food services outpacing total US employment growth since the Great Recession began.

America's Self-Appointed "Lower Class"

There's nothing like a low self-image to keep a people down. A new report from the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans who consider themselves "lower-middle" or "lower class," has risen from 25 percent in 2008 to 32 percent this past year. And what's worse is that the proportion of Americans who classify themselves as such stands at nearly 40 percent for those between the ages of 18 and 30.

The so-called economic recovery has probably done little to heal America's new identity problem, given that it's barely felt in daily life: A separate Pew study from last month found that average worker income has dropped 4.1 percent since the recovery began. And the figure during the actual recession? A not-too-different rate of 4.2 percent. How will this new self-image play out in American life? It's all probably still taking shape, but it undoubtedly represents a cultural shift. As an article from CNBC puts it, Americans "historically have resisted thinking of themselves of anything but solidly middle class."
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