Political  Calculations

What are we to make of journalist, editor and author Jonathan Chait's New York Magazine article "Inequality and the Charles Murray Dodge"?

Here's the particular passage we have in mind as we ask that question:

A more blunt version of this technique was previewed a couple months ago by the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis, perhaps the right’s most enthusiastic inequality denier. Pethokoukis cited a chart, compiled by Political Calculations, purporting to show that the only change in inequality results from changed family status. Pethokoukis triumphantly presented this as the “The one chart that explodes the myth of U.S. income inequality,” and used it to segue, as Brooks does today, to Murray’s arguments about family values:

So what we have here, as always in America it seems, is culture trumping economics (though the data don’t take into account how different income groups have different inflation rates, another equalizer). AEI’s Charles Murray has a new book coming out that will expand on how values and culture influence inequality.

But the chart is completely wrong. Reader Jacques Distler pointed out to me that it relies on census data, which only asks households if they earn more than $100,000 a year. Since all the change in income inequality has come within households earning well over that mark, the census data is not going to capture the rise in income inequality. (Think of it this way. Imagine you want to show that basketball centers get taller as you move from high school to college to the NBA. If your tallest category is "six foot two and over,” you’re not going to show much of an effect.)

Political Calculations

Political Calculations is a site that develops, applies and presents both established and cutting edge theory to the topics of investing, business and economics.

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