October 2008, John Schmitt and Hye Jin Rho

Taking Reagan's question to voters in the final presidential debate in 1980 - "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?", our earlier report, The Reagan Question: Are You Better Off Now Than Eight Years Ago?, considered the period from 2000 to 2008.  Now we take a brief look at the differences between 1976 to 1980. Overall, 12 out of the following 23 indicators were better in 1980 than in 1976, one indicator was the same, and 10 were worse.

Economic Indicator
1976 1980
Unemployment rate 7.7% Better7.1%
Inflation rate Better5.5% 10.9%
Job growth (preceding 4 years)
Total nonfarm employment Better7.7% -1.1%
Private sector employment Better6.9% -1.5%
Manufacturing employment -0.8% Better2.9%
Employment rate (% of population)
All, age 16 and older 56.8% Better59.2%
Men, age 16 and older 72.0% 72.0%
Women, age 16 and older 43.2% Better47.7%
Real wage growth (preceding 4 years)
-2.9% Better-2.2%
Minimum wage (July 2008$) Better$7.89 $7.49
Family income
Level  (median, 2007$) $49,562 Better$50,366
Growth (preceding 4 years)
0.6% Better1.6%
Rate (% of population) Better11.8% 13.0%
People in poverty (millions) Better25.0 29.3
Personal savings (% of disposable income) 9.4% Better10.0%
College tuition (average per year, 2006-07$)
Private four-year college $8,814 Better$8,480
Public four-year college $2,145 Better$1,939
Gasoline (gallon, July 2008$) Better$0.62 $1.27
GDP growth (preceding 4 years)
10.6% Better13.7%
Productivity growth (preceding 4 years)
Better7.8% 2.3%
Trade balance (% of GDP) Better-0.3% -0.7%
Federal debt (% of GDP) 34.5% Better32.6%
Net Int'l Investment flows  (% of GDP) 9.1% Better13.1%

Notes: Health Care data was not available for these time periods.

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