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Who Has Benefited from Economic Growth in the United States Since 1969? The Case of Children


  • Jencks, Christopher

    (Harvard U)

  • Mayer, Susan E.

    (U of Chicago)

  • Swingle, Joseph

    (Wellesley College)


One can use the Census Bureau's income statistics to show either that low-income children were considerably worse off or considerably better off in 1999 than in 1969. Likewise, one can use Census statistics to show that middle-income children gained very little or a great deal between 1969 and 1999. Resolving these disagreements requires agreeing on the best price index, the best adjustment for changes in household size, and the best treatment of noncash benefits. In addition, one must reconcile discrepancies between trends in income and consumption. Since there is no consensus on any of these matters, we investigate trends in children's well-being using more direct measures of material well-being, such as housing conditions, neighborhood safety, motor vehicle ownership, telephone service, regular medical checkups, and food consumption. Almost all these measures suggest that low-income children's material well-being rose between the early 1970s and the late 1990s. This finding implies that traditional price indices such as the CPI-U overstated inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Jencks, Christopher & Mayer, Susan E. & Swingle, Joseph, 2004. "Who Has Benefited from Economic Growth in the United States Since 1969? The Case of Children," Working Paper Series rwp04-017, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Susan E. Mayer & Christopher Jencks, 1989. "Poverty and the Distribution of Material Hardship," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 88-114.
    2. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan & Joseph P. Newhouse & Dahlia Remler, 1996. "Are Medical Prices Declining?," NBER Working Papers 5750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jencks, Christopher & Tach, Laura, 2005. "Would Equal Opportunity Mean More Mobility?," Working Paper Series rwp05-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Harding, David J. & Jencks, Christopher & Lopoo, Leonard M. & Mayer, Susan E., 2003. "The Changing Effect of Family Background on the Incomes of American Adults," Working Paper Series rwp03-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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