Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMarch 15th, 2004 | back to home

15 March 2004

According to the upbeat article “Smile, these are good times. Truly” in the latest issue of the Economist, the drop in living standards for median income Americans since the 1970s which I have oft cited as proof that the US system doesn’t work for most people is due to the number of immigrants.

Strip out immigrants, and the picture of stagnant median incomes vanishes. Indeed, for the nine-tenths of the population that is native-born, middle-income trends continue their improvement of the 1950s and 1960s. For these people, inequality is not rising, but falling… [moreover] A quarter-century ago a typical household had three members. Today, it has just 2.6 members. Simply by this effect, median households have seen their real incomes rise by a half.

Before I start looking on the sunny side, however, I would like to take a closer look at The Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook which The Economist cites and see in more detail how he constructs his figures – the devil, as usual, is in the details. I hope that some economists will be by shortly to help with this as well.

In any case perhaps the more worrying economic statistic I have come across is about the decreasing chances of improving your lot in the supposedly meritocratic US. As I “blogged earlier”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_current_affairs_us.html#000975 sons from the bottom three-quarters of the socioeconomic scale were significantly less likely to move up in the 1990s than in the 1970s.