Michael Strain challenges populist concerns about the American dream.

What do former President Trump and Bernie Sanders have in common? Or Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Nobel Prize-winning Clinton administration economist Joseph Stiglitz and billionaire investor Ray Dalio? Among many other prominent elected officials, commentators, public intellectuals, and business leaders, they have all voiced concern about the death of the American Dream.

And they’re hardly alone. Concern about the decline of the American Dream is widespread and has been heavily influenced by the rise of populism. Frustration with “elites” has saturated the public debate. The game is rigged, we often hear, for everyone except those at the top. Wages and incomes have been stagnant for decades, we are told. The middle class has been permanently weakened. America is no longer an upwardly mobile society. Capitalism is broken.

But there’s a problem with this narrative: It is wrong on the facts. The American Dream is alive and well.

When U.S. Senator Joshua Hawley, Republican from Missouri and a star of conservative populism, gave a commencement address, he declared that the majority of Americans “haven’t seen a real wage increase in 30 years.” The senator’s argument that wages and incomes have been stagnant for decades is commonly heard, and frequently cited as evidence that the American Dream is dead. But it is more wrong than right.

Consider the wages of “typical” workers — those who are not managers or supervisors. Roughly four in five workers in the U.S. economy fall into this group.

Have their wages stagnated for decades? No. Since the summer of 1990 (a peak in the business cycle), their wages have increased by 42%, after accounting for inflation. This is a considerable increase in the purchasing power of typical workers’ wages.

True, it is less than the increase enjoyed by the top 1%. And Americans should not be satisfied with this pace of increase. Policy should do more to help ensure that workers cancommand higher wages in the labor market. But wages have not stagnated for decades.