A "Second Opinion" on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class
Richard V. Burkhauser
Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute
Cornell University - Department of Economics
Kosali Ilayperuma Simon
Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
NBER Working Paper No. w17164
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.
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Number of Pages in PDF File: 43working papers series
Date posted: June 25, 2011
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