Homer Simpson is one of the most notorious job hoppers in television history, with literally dozens of occupations on his résumé. It’s an aspect of his character that The Simpsons has lamp-shaded on numerous occasions. In a 2013 episode called “Pulpit Friction,” for instance, the cartoon patriarch remarks, “Well, I’m not one for taking new jobs on a whim. But as we say in the snow plow business, I’m your astronaut.” Economically, Homer has run the gamut from lucrative jobs like being CEO of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to such low-paying gigs as carny and minor league baseball mascot. Through it all, he tends to remain rooted in the American middle class, still living in the same modest suburban home as he did back in 1989. He’s even driving the same car. Why can’t he move up in the world? Vox has given some serious thought to the cartoon character’s working life, delivering the results in an entertaining video called “Homer Simpson: An Economic Analysis.”
Homer has dabbled in various wacky professions that never seem to last more than one episode. This video puts the count at over 190. But in “Homer’s Odyssey,” the third episode of the series, he took the job that has occupied most of his time over the last quarter century: safety inspector. Based on a close-up of his paycheck and adjusting for inflation, the Vox filmmakers have determined that Homer is ensconced “pretty comfortably in the lower middle-class income bracket.” That is, assuming Springfield really is in Oregon, as many fans have surmised.
The video ultimately presents Homer as a veritable poster child for an economic phenomenon called the “middle class squeeze.” Up until the 1970s, American wages were rising with productivity. But since the 1980s, salaries have stagnated, failing to keep pace with inflation. Homer is caught in the middle of that. As the narration explains, “Homer’s median income has actually never surpassed the median income in the United States. Despite brief forays into the one percent, Homer remains a paradigm of middle class America. Three decades later, he’s right where he started.” Never mind that The Simpsons has shown a distinct disregard for the word “paradigm.”