Economic Mobility Is Alive and Well in America

Scott Burns writes about a study

from the Urban Institute, a think tank more inclined to worry about the poor than celebrate the rich. Stephen J. Rose, the author of the study, is an accomplished labor economist with a Ph.D. from City University of New York.

Rather than dividing all of us into quintiles and examining income changes in each quintile, Rose starts with a level of inflation-adjusted income and examines how different slices of income have done over time. In this case, he has examined 1979 through 2014, a period believed full of economic duress for most working Americans.

He divides us into five income classes:

  • The Poor and Near Poor, with incomes from $0 to $29,999 in 2014.
  • The Lower Middle class, with incomes from $30,000 to $49,999.
  • The Middle class, with incomes from $50,000 to $99,999.
  • The Upper Middle class, with incomes from $100,000 to $349,999.
  • The Rich, with incomes of at least $350,000.

All of these incomes are for what he calls a “three-person equivalent family.” A single person could have less income and be in a group, but a family of four or more would need more income to be in a particular group.

What has happened to the distribution of incomes? I pulled these numbers from figure 2 of Rose’s study:

Income distribution_Urban Institute

Color me unsurprised. I’ve seen similar results before, in these pieces, for example: Mark J. Perry’s “Yes, America’s Middle Class Has Been Disappearing…into Higher Income Groups” (Carpe Diem, December 17, 2015), and David Harsanyi’s “Sorry, Everyone: The American Middle Class Is Winning” (The Federalist, June 22, 2016).

Rose, of course, wants to make much of the inequality between the groups. But the groups don’t comprise the same people in 2014 as they did in 1979. Moreover, as the table suggest, Americans were a lot better off in 2014 than they were in 1979.

But that’s the left for you. If it ain’t equal, it ain’t right. That’s because leftists are always looking for victims instead of celebrating real progress — the kind that happens despite the best efforts of government to screw things up.

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