Measuring Poverty: Max Sawicky on Nicholas Eberstadt
As a follow-up to this discussion, we should note Eberstadt gets a little Washington Post space:
The percentage of people falling below that threshold was deemed the “poverty rate.” The threshold is adjusted each year to take into account changing prices. But much more than prices has changed since 1965 – and the government’s poverty measures have failed to adapt to and recognize the new conditions. With more access to credit, greater income swings from year to year, and improved nutrition, housing and health care, the life of America’s poor is radically different today. Unless the nation’s basic poverty indicators take into account such new conditions, any efforts to effectively redress poverty in America are bound to fail.
Max calls this dopey:
The fundamental value of the measure is to compare different points in time, not to provide a scientific assessment of deprivation at any point in time. Criticizing it in this dimension is idiotic.
Max tackles several of the details of Eberstadt’s writings, including this gem:
NE’s own suggestions on data are laughable. He invokes levels of per capita income, high school graduation, the unemployment rate, and total public spending on the poor. The relation of any of these to the poverty rate could be ably disentangled by a smart college student, so I will pass on the details.
While Max only alludes to the CPI bias argument, he and Dean Baker have also noted that the cost of health care has increased, while any advantages from things like fancy cars with GPS don’t matter too much to the poor. And catch how Max ends his devastating critique:
Eberstadt really wants a measure of the distribution of consumption over time, the better to analyze changes in the standard of living. But he provides no such measurement nor alludes to any in his column. Maybe he’s not a data person. For the story, you need to consult two organizations not included in the Post’s “Think Tank Town” stable, EPI and CEPR who have done quite a bit in this realm.
I am delighted to point AB readers to Max’s blog and the writing of EPI and CEPR. And my apologies in advance to Max if our troll makes a pest of himself in Max’s comment box.
Update: Jonah Goldberg is busy proving he knows nothing about poverty either. One post praises the garbage from Mickey Kaus.
The other salutes one of his know-nothing readers:
don’t see it mentioned very often in poverty rate discussions but it seems to me that when you consider the fact that the US absorbs millions of desperately poor immigrants every year, it’s really amazing that the poverty rate isn’t much higher than it is.
Clueless and lazy Jonah declares this to be an excellent point without taking the effort to check any facts. So I did. The Census Bureau breaks out poverty rates over time among ages as well as race. Forgive me as I delve into the race side of this, but low expectations Jonah has already taken us there. Let’s see – while Asians have lower poverty rates than African Americans, but it is true that Hispanics have higher poverty rates than whites. I guess Jonah only focuses on Hispanic and not Asian immigrants. Of course, the historical trends are color blind with poverty rising for all groups including whites. Maybe Jonah is still blaming us Irish.
We also could look at poverty rates by state. My state (California) has a poverty rate just over the national average with Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas also having poverty rates about the national average. But check red states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina where their poverty rates are higher than California’s. Can immigration be blamed for that?
Why does Mr. Goldberg get to draw a salary for his lazy serial stupidity? I can’t believe there is anyone on the planet dumb enough to think he ever has any insights on anything.