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Is the middle class really worse off, part II

March 29, 2016

This is part II, a follow-up to this post where I decided to explore trends in wealth and income of people (actually households) in the US. This part will be for reference (or some heavy reading). The starting off point is another analysis of the data from the previous post.

Link 1 — Analysis of the same Fed SCF data, whose surface I barely scratched. By think tank CEPR.

 This paper presents data on the wealth of households by age cohort based on new data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). It shows that the upward redistribution of wealth continued between 2010 and 2013. As a result, most households had less wealth in 2013 than they did in 2010 and much less than in 1989, the first year examined. This is in spite of the fact that households were much less likely to have traditional defined – benefit pensions than in prior decades.

Link 2 — The FED’s own bulletin-article on this data set

Link 3 — Pew Trusts report on the same stuff. They also say household finances are under threat, but slightly less pessimistic presentation, IMO.

Link 4 — 2016 Economic Report of the President to Congress, by the Council of Economic Advisers. [via J Frankel / Project Syndicate] . Notably, it begins in its very first chapter with a focus on the subject of economic inequality. Looks like a pretty amazing read. A quick check reveals that the front-and-center positioning and extensive treatment of economic inequality is a newish development for this publication, compared to previous reports. Considering the Obama administration, and the conventional wisdom in Washington in general was in a lot of ways to blame, I’ll take it as an indication of genuine awareness that there is a problem, which is a great start. (The end being policy and the middle? …)  The selection of what to emphasize is different in this document from the others – there is much more here than just statistics. I hope to return to this later.


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