Sunday, December 07, 2008

Poverty Isn't As Poor As It Used To Be

I've previously shown that the official poverty metric overestimates the population of the poor, and understates their material circumstances. AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt says the same and supplies data through 2006. In particular, he re-affirms that today's poor are vastly better off than the pre-1960s poor.

One caveat: Eberstadt is off-track about the effect of immigration. He challenges the idea that the failure to reduce the percentage of Americans below the poverty line is due to the influx of illegal immigrants. That's a straw man: the argument is that many immigrants--illegal or legal--tend to start with lower wages, then move into higher brackets over time.

It's not illegals, per se. Rather, as Arnold Kling says:
My metaphor for income distribution is an escalator, with new families and immigrants starting at the bottom and most people moving up.
The current recession won't change that fact--just ask the 800,000 Vietnamese boat people who arrived during the woeful Carter years.

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