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Lead New York Times Headline Claims "Sharp Increase in Living Standard": Where's the Evidence?

August 8, 2001

The front page lead story in The New York Times the other day was headlined  "Census Data Show A Sharp Increase in Living Standard."  This seems to be one of the least justified headlines in recent memory.

The evidence the article gives for a "sharp increase in living standard"  basically boils down to:

  • more high school and college graduates
  • more people owning cars, with 18% owning three or more
  • bigger homes, with a "slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or more
  • growing family incomes

More high school and college graduates: What does this have to do with standard of living?  Perhaps the assumption is that more well-educated means higher income.  The article doesn't give any data about this.

More people owning cars, with 18% owning three or more: The article doesn't tell us if the increase in the number of people owning cars is "sharply" higher or just a bit more.  18% owning three or more cars fits in with the proposition that those in the top income brackets are doing far better proportionately than the rest of the country, not with the proposition that there is a broad-based "sharp increase in living standard."

Bigger homes, with a "slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or more: How much bigger, and whose homes?

Growing family incomes: Adjusted for inflation?  Growing how much? Spread throughout the population, or only in the upper income brackets? The result of more and more families with two or more parents/others working?  The result of working many more hours?  The article doesn't give us a clue.

You may well be thinking of a host of other measurements that go into "standard of living" which the article doesn't touch upon, such as access to decent health care, the quality of housing, how clean is the air and water...

Beyond the fact the the article's headline is not borne out by the article itself, isn't it the case that many Americans feel they are working harder than ever and have less to show for it?

If The New York Times was a Republican-oriented newspaper, I'd just assume the publication was engaging in some pro-Bush spinning.  But since the newspaper is traditionally Democratic-leaning, the headline is quite puzzling.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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Economic Injustice

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