Arnold Kling  

Bruce Meyer on Income Distribution

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Outstanding podcast with Russ Roberts. I did not expect to listen to much of it, but I wound up listening to all of it. Important tidbits include the fact that poor people tend to under-report income in surveys. This makes measuring their income particularly difficult, since they do not have to file tax returns, which otherwise would be a useful measure of income.

What I find most interesting is that Piketty and Saez are famous in the profession. Meanwhile, until this podcast, I had never heard of Meyer, who seems to know at least as much about the topic of inequality as they do. Is that my oversight? Is Meyer cited as often as Piketty and Saez? If not, why not?


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CATEGORIES: Income Distribution



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Eric Falkenstein writes:

His focus is econometrics, so perhaps that's why. Also, the subject of unemployment spells, hazard rates for leaving unemployment, etc.

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

There's nothing wrong with the podcast, but I didn't really hear anything I didn't know from the work of, say, Robert Fogel or Robert Gordon.

Jack writes:

Eric Falkenstein is right: Meyer's research is less focused on income distribution than is Piketty & Saez's, although objectively, his publications are about as impressive (several AER, Ectca, QJE, etc.). Also, Meyer is in Chicago's policy school, and as such his work may receive less attention from economists (my comment isn't meant as ad hominem, just being blunt).

Silas Barta writes:

What? Since when did poor people not have to file tax returns?

GIVCO writes:

@Silas-

As long as we've had the code. The cutoff is ~$10,000/$20,000 single/married.

Noah Yetter writes:

If you don't owe, you don't have to file. Do you really think the IRS will come after you for letting them keep thousands of dollars that they owe you?

At any rate, I wonder how many poor people are failing to receive the EITC as a result of not filing. If I didn't know about it (and it is very poorly publicized), and did know that I didn't need to file, I know I wouldn't.

Harun writes:
"At any rate, I wonder how many poor people are failing to receive the EITC as a result of not filing. If I didn't know about it (and it is very poorly publicized), and did know that I didn't need to file, I know I wouldn't."

I don't know about your area of the country, but in Northern California there are businesses that offer to "give you cash now" at a discount in return for handling your tax return. They even have annoying people in costumes advertising at intersections.

I can only assume their main customers are poor people looking to grab their EITC or child tax credit early in the form of cash rather than wait and get the whole check.

I would also assume that such businesses get a lot of business by word of mouth and that poor people know all about this stuff. These businesses have many, many outlets and can afford to hire people to dress up and wave signs all day...

Tom Church writes:

Arnold,

Can't recommend Meyer and Sullivan's (2011 - updated) paper, "Five Decades of Consumption and Income Poverty."

A PDF link to the most up to date, 2011 version is here.

Very comprehensive treatment of (absolute) income and consumption poverty in the United States. Should mandatory reading on the subject.

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