Wages are the most salient form of compensation, but they are far from the only component of income—that is, of the total flow of resources available to households for spending and saving. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) computes a comprehensive measure of inflation-adjusted market income that includes labor market earnings, the value of employer-provided health insurance, and business and capital income. The median household saw market income gains of 21% between 1990 and 2016, the last year for which data are available. The CBO also computes inflation-adjusted income after taxes and government transfers, which grew by 44% for the median household during this period. Households in the bottom 20% saw their post-tax-and-transfer income grow by 66% over these years.
(Note: I believe that Strain is mistaken when he writes that ordinary Americans’ wages did stagnate from the mid-1970s until 1990. For evidence to the contrary of Strain’s claim about this 15-year span, see W. Michael Cox’s & Richard Alm’s 1999 book, Myths of Rich & Poor .)