OK, my short response to the living standards question is that everything hinges on three questions, none of which are as obviously answered as you think:
1. To what extent have the ever-growing cost of health insurance benefits eaten into wages, and have the increasing costs provided the utility to workers that they would have received if they'd just gotten extra pay?
2. How much do conventional ways of adjusting for cost of living overstate inflation, thereby understating the improvement in living standards?
3. To what extent have husbands voluntarily chosen to reduce the number of hours they work (or to work in less-highly-paid positions) as a reaction to not having to be the sole breadwinner (thanks to the revolution in women's labor force participation).
There's not really any debate about how downscale folks have fared the past few decades. The debate is about the median--typical--family. I'll dive back in this fall.