This is a first world problems post, but just because those problems are meaningless, that don’t make them go away.
There was muted rejoicing in the white collar salt mines of big New York City law firms yesterday, when Cravath, Swaine and Moore announced it was raising first year associate salaries from $160,000 to $180,000. For 50 years Cravath has been setting the “going rate” for the salaries top law firms pay associates, and this was the first bump in the rate in nine years. (Most of its competitors have already announced they’ll match).
Now $180,000 is by any measure what David Ricardo would have called a metric fuckton of money, if he were alive today and blogging while mildly intoxicated.
On the other hand: (ALL FIGURES BELOW ARE EXPRESSED IN CONSTANT 2016 DOLLARS)
The going rate in 1975: $110,000
Three years TOTAL tuition for 1975 Harvard Law School grads: $40,700
Average rent in New York City in 1975: $778
Three years TOTAL tuition for 2016 Harvard Law School grads: $171,000
Average rent within ten miles of New York City in 2016: $3,519. Average rent in NYC and environs has increased by 50% since 2009 alone (the CPI has increased by 10% over that time).
Again, all these numbers are inflation-adjusted.
It’s a sign of how extreme wealth disparities and their social effects have gotten that a $180,000 salary in New York City can be considered in some sense (and not just the Republican sense) “middle class.”