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A "Second Opinion" On The Economic Health Of The American Middle Class

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  • Burkhauser, Richard V.
  • Larrimore, Jeff
  • Simon, Kosali I.

Abstract

Researchers considering levels and trends in the resources available to the middle class traditionally measure the pre-tax cash income of tax units or the pre-tax, post-transfer, size-adjusted income of households. Choices regarding the income measure and sharing unit to be analyzed, as well as other methodological choices, carry significant implications for assessing income trends. In particular, we show that focusing on tax units rather than households and not adjusting for sharing unit size greatly reduces measured growth in middle class income, as does excluding the effect of taxes and the value of in-kind benefits. As an example, we demonstrate how much these distinctions change the observed distribution of benefits from the tax exclusion of employer provided health insurance.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by National Tax Association in its journal National Tax Journal.

Volume (Year): 65 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 7-32

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Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:65:y:2012:i:1:p:7-32

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  1. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  2. Auten, Gerald & Gee, Geoffrey, 2009. "Income Mobility in the United States: New Evidence from Income Tax Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(2), pages 301-28, June.
  3. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
  4. Robert J. Gordon, 2009. "Misperceptions About the Magnitude and Timing of Changes in American Income Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15351, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "Five Decades of Consumption and Income Poverty," Working Papers 0907, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  6. Wankyo Chung, 2003. "Fringe Benefits and Inequality in the Labor Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 517-529, July.
  7. Richard V. Burkhauser & Kosali I. Simon, 2010. "Measuring the Impact of Health Insurance on Levels and Trends in Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lynn Karoly & Gary Burtless, 1995. "Demographic change, rising earnings inequality, and the distribution of personal well-being, 1959–1989," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 379-405, August.
  9. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  10. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  11. Jeff Larrimore & Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Laura Zayatz, 2008. "Consistent Cell Means for Topcoded Incomes in the Public Use March CPS (1976-2007)," NBER Working Papers 13941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  1. Is Income Stagnation a Myth?
    by Karl Smith in Modeled Behavior on 2011-09-20 20:34:55
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Cited by:
  1. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Immervoll, Herwig & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Tax policy and income inequality in the US, 1979-2007," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-001, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  2. Richard V. Burkhauser & Markus H. Hahn & Roger Wilkins, 2013. "Measuring Top Incomes Using Tax Record Data: A Cautionary Tale from Australia," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2013n24, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  3. Salvatore Morelli & Timothy Smeeding & Jeffrey Thompson, 2014. "Post-1970 Trends in Within-Country Inequality and Poverty: Rich and Middle Income Countries," CSEF Working Papers 356, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  4. Dennis Fixler & David S. Johnson, 2012. "Accounting for the Distribution of Income in the U.S. National Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bargain, Olivier & Dolls, Mathias & Immervoll, Herwig & Neumann, Dirk & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2013. "Partisan Tax Policy and Income Inequality in the U.S., 1979-2007," IZA Discussion Papers 7190, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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