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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Burkhauser, Richard V. & Larrimore, Jeff & Simon, Kosali I., 2012. "A "Second Opinion" on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(1), pages 7-32, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:65:y:2012:i:1:p:7-32
    DOI: 10.17310/ntj.2012.1.01
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    1. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2011. "Estimating trends in US income inequality using the Current Population Survey: the importance of controlling for censoring," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 393-415, September.
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    6. 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.
    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.
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    12. Wankyo Chung, 2003. "Fringe Benefits and Inequality in the Labor Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 517-529, July.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Is Income Stagnation a Myth?
      by Karl Smith in Modeled Behavior on 2011-09-21 01:34:55

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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 - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    2. Larrimore, Jeff & Splinter, David, 2019. "How much does health insurance cost? Comparison of premiums in administrative and survey data," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 174(C), pages 132-135.
    3. Dennis Fixler & David S. Johnson, 2014. "Accounting for the Distribution of Income in the U.S. National Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress, pages 213-244, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hai‐Anh H. Dang & Peter F. Lanjouw, 2017. "Welfare Dynamics Measurement: Two Definitions of a Vulnerability Line and Their Empirical Application," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 63(4), pages 633-660, December.
    5. Krueger, D. & Mitman, K. & Perri, F., 2016. "Macroeconomics and Household Heterogeneity," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 843-921, Elsevier.
    6. Jeff Larrimore & Jacob Mortenson & David Splinter, 2015. "Income and Earnings Mobility in U.S. Tax Data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-61, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    7. Korenman, Sanders D. & Remler, Dahlia K., 2016. "Including health insurance in poverty measurement: The impact of Massachusetts health reform on poverty," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 27-35.
    8. 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.
    9. Vanda Almeida, 2020. "Income Inequality and Redistribution in the Aftermath of the 2007-2008 Crisis: The U.S. Case," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 73(1), pages 77-114, March.
    10. Richard Burkhauser & Markus Hahn & Roger Wilkins, 2015. "Measuring top incomes using tax record data: a cautionary tale from Australia," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(2), pages 181-205, June.
    11. Aaberge, Rolf & Eika, Lasse & Langørgen, Audun & Mogstad, Magne, 2019. "Local governments, in-kind transfers, and economic inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 180(C).
    12. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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