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A "Second Opinion" on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class

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

Abstract

Researchers considering levels and trends in the resources available to the middle class traditionally measure the pre-tax cash income of either tax units or households. In this paper, we demonstrate that this choice carries significant implications for assessing income trends. Focusing on tax units rather than households greatly reduces measured growth in middle class income. Furthermore, excluding the effect of taxes and the value of in-kind benefits further reduces observed improvements in the resources of the middle class. Finally, we show how these distinctions change the observed distribution of benefits from the tax exclusion of employer provided health insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore & Kosali I. Simon, 2011. "A "Second Opinion" on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class," NBER Working Papers 17164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17164
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    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. 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.
    2. Shoshana Grossbard & Lucia Mangiavacchi & William Nilsson & Luca Piccoli, 2019. "Spouses' Income Association and Inequality: A Non-Linear Perspective," Working Papers 2019-076, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Philip Armour & Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore, 2014. "Levels and Trends in U.S. Income and its Distribution: A Crosswalk from Market Income towards a Comprehensive Haig‐Simons Income Approach," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 81(2), pages 271-293, October.
    4. 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).
    5. 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).
    6. Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore & Sean Lyons, 2017. "Measuring Health Insurance Benefits: The Case Of People With Disabilities," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(3), pages 439-456, July.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Adam Looney & Kevin B. Moore, 2015. "Changes in the Distribution of After-Tax Wealth: Has Income Tax Policy Increased Wealth Inequality?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-58, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    14. 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.
    15. Gallagher, Ryan M., 2021. "Income segregation's impact on local public expenditures: Evidence from municipalities and school districts, 1980–2010," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C).
    16. 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.).
    17. Jessie X. Fan & Hua Zan, 2019. "The “Model Minority” Myth: Asian American Middle Class Before, During, And After The Great Recession," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 64(01), pages 23-39, March.
    18. 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.
    19. George Mechling & Stephen Miller & Ron Konecny, 2017. "Do Piketty and Saez Misstate Income Inequality? Critiquing the Critiques," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 30-46, January.
    20. Dang , Hai-Anh H. & Lanjouw, Peter F., 2014. "Welfare dynamics measurement : two definitions of a vulnerability line and their empirical application," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6944, The World Bank.
    21. Jesse Bricker & Alice Henriques & Jacob Krimmel & John Sabelhaus, 2016. "Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 261-331.
    22. Alberto Bucci & Klaus Prettner, 2020. "Endogenous education and the reversal in the relationship between fertility and economic growth," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(3), pages 1025-1068, July.

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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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