By June Carbone
Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology
University of Minnesota Law School
David Leonhardt strikes again. As he now seems to do with some regularity, he takes a complex body of work and reduces it to a soundbite, eliminating the complexity and uncertainty that underlies the research. His soundbite this time links two parent families to upward mobility, and notes that two different dynamics produce two parent families: high income and religion. He then replicates maps that purport to show these linkages.
By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 12, 2015
David Leonhardt came to my attention because of his column purporting that liberals were wrong about families and education. Given my colleagues’ expertise in macroeconomics, money, and jobs, I decided to look at what views Leonhardt was presenting on austerity. Leonhardt lauds himself for avoiding what he dubs the “safe” approach to journalism and instead “providing a service to readers when we’re willing to make analytical judgments.” What kind of “analytical judgments” does he make about austerians and debt hawks in light of their track record of repeated predictive failures? He loves them.
By June Carbone
David Leonhardt, in a recent “Letter from the editor” in the New York Times, wades into the marriage debate. In the new guise of journalist as judge he pronounces that “liberals are wrong” on the relationship between inequality and the change in family structure. In the process, he misstates what the issue is about and gets the wrong answer to the question he does ask. He makes both mistakes because of an age old journalistic problem: those trained to meet the limited space of physical newspaper column are taught to turn a complex issue into a simple one: does inequality cause a change in family structure or does a change in family structure cause a change in inequality? Here is how Leonhardt initially frames the supposed debate as to which liberals are “wrong.”
The New York Times and Dave Leonhardt’s Upshot section made a big splash a few days ago by reporting on a study showing that the Canadian middle class had caught the US middle class in median income and likely surpassed it since. The study is based on an effort to measure median income per capita after taxes, and its results are presented as something truly significant.
However, I think the study is biased in that in median income per capita after taxes, it selected the wrong measure. What is needed is a measure of income or affluence that takes account of the value of cross-national variations in Government benefits delivered to the middle classes. Since the United States has lower taxes than most comparable nations, but delivers much less in safety net and entitlement benefits, it’s pretty clear that the measure used in the study reported on by The Times overestimates the real median income of the US middle class in comparison with the middle classes of other comparable nations and provides a misleading impression of the relative affluence of the American middle class.
Posted in Joe Firestone
Tagged 2011 Median Wealth per Adult, Credit Suisse 2011 Global Wealth Databook, Dave Leonhardt, Dylan Matthews, Ezra Klein Blog, Median Income Per Capita, new york times, romney, US Inequality, US Ranking on Median Wealth per Adult, wigwam