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

Burkhauser, Richard V., Larrimore, Jeff, and Simon, Kosali I.

Abstract:

Researchers considering levels and trends in the resources available to the middle class traditionally measure the pre-tax cash income of tax units or the pre-tax, post-transfer, size-adjusted income of households. Choices regarding the income measure and sharing unit to be analyzed, as well as other methodological choices, carry significant implications for assessing income trends. In particular, we show that focusing on tax units rather than households and not adjusting for sharing unit size greatly reduces measured growth in middle class income, as does excluding the effect of taxes and the value of in-kind benefits. As an example, we demonstrate how much these distinctions change the observed distribution of benefits from the tax exclusion of employer provided health insurance.

Citation

Burkhauser, Richard V., Larrimore, Jeff, and Simon, Kosali I. (2012), A "Second Opinion" on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class, National Tax Journal, 65:1, pp. 7-32

DOI: dx.doi.org/10.17310/ntj.2012.1.01