Stylized illustration of a person holding up a sign that says “3,” as a confused group of people watch.
Stylized illustration of a person holding up a sign that says “3,” as a confused group of people watch.
Illustrator: Connor Boyd

In my last article, I showed that third-party turnout for federal elections has stayed at about the same level for the last 100 years. Despite some promising individual elections, third parties (including independents) have not yet achieved the steady rise that some were hoping for.

But some of these candidates believe that they are still making an impact. Third party platforms can be more radical or progressive, and they hope that the millions of votes they attract will send a message to mainstream candidates. Some believe that this can force main parties to adopt some third-party policies.

For some insider…


Stylistic illustration of person waiting in line to vote.
Stylistic illustration of person waiting in line to vote.
Illustrator: Connor Boyd

As Election Day approaches, there is no shortage of advice on who to vote for. Those considering a third-party vote have no doubt heard a lot of claims. To see if these claims stand up to scrutiny, I analyzed 100 years of federal election results to get a better picture of third-party turnout in the U.S.

Let’s explore the claim that third-party turnout is on the rise in the US. (For brevity, I am including independent candidates when I say “third-party.”) Some sources paint a rosy picture of rising turnout: a nice, gentle curve, rising majestically over the chaos of…


(Real Wages Aren’t Rising, Part 2)

In my last article, I showed how real income (income adjusted for inflation) is only barely growing for many Americans. Many people are making only modest gains, while the poorest of us saw only about a 0.25% increase per year.

But it’s actually a lot worse than that. The cost of basic needs is rising a lot faster than Americans’ payraises, and faster than inflation in general. In fact, when you measure “inflation” based on just cost of living, large sections of the population are losing purchasing power. In other words, their “real income” is falling, not rising.

Inflation is…


Election season is nearly upon us, and soon the news will be full of debate panels. And just like in 2016, some panelists will say “real wages are rising,” implying the economy is doing great and everyone is getting ahead. And the discussion often ends there, as though everyone sees it as progress. But things aren’t really improving for the average American, in fact, many of them are losing purchasing power over time. Let’s look at why.

Real wages, or wages adjusted for inflation, are generally rising. But there are two reasons why that doesn’t mean much today. First, most…

Chris Apple

Writing about economics, politics, income inequality, and other interests.

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