Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Against the median

Posted by Rich Sweeney on February 23, 2009

Sen. Schumer makes an interesting point about the common perception of middle class in America:

The median-household-income statistic is too blunt an instrument, because it includes households headed by 20-year-olds (i.e., students) as well as 90-year-olds (i.e., retirees). If you earn $48,000 at 20, you’re doing fine and don’t need government help; at 90, you’re on a fixed income and have different needs (and more options) from government than someone younger. According to an analysis by Third Way, the median household income for people ages 25 to 60, the prime working years, is about $68,000; if they’re married, it’s about $78,000. If both spouses earn income at some point during the year, the number rises to $85,000. So the “middle class” most Democratic politicians imagine—that is, typical working-age families—is actually much higher on the income ladder than they realize, somewhere more in the range of $60,000 to $100,000.

From The Atlanic.

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