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Bleg: The Right Way to Read Tyler

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Please read Tyler's post, then answer the following two questions:

1. What percentage of Tyler's readers never have and never will read anything else about the relevance of changing household size for claims about economic stagnation?

2. What lesson about the relevance of changing household size for claims about economic stagnation will such readers take away?



COMMENTS (8 to date)
BZ writes:

1. I'll say 37.982%. Blog reading time is scarce, but we're talking about an economics blog, which makes me suspect that a large portion are far more curious about this stuff than the normal population. Regular commenters are a different matter.

2. That there has been little change in household size since 1990, therefore median household income has been stagnant since 1970, and therefore if we were to track all/100% of median income households in 1970, we would find, in every case, that their income is the same or lower in 2012.

dave smith writes:

I've read the whole discussion, so this refers to more than just today's post by Tyler, but:

1) about 10%

2) anyone reading Tyler would think that demographics are a red herring or a wild goose chase...that is, not even worth considering.

Finch writes:

Don't most people just jump to the comment sections? That's where the information is.

I mostly agree with Dave Smith, point #2. Tyler is trying to dismiss demographics. It is unclear whether he's looked into it in any depth; that investigation is certainly not on display.

I remain uncertain whether his results are robust. Partially that's because even "white family with three kids" in 1992 is likely to be much different demographically than the same classification in 1952, without even raising the larger demographic issues. And partially it's because I have very little confidence in our ability to adjust for quality in computations of inflation. I believe inflation is considerably overstated.

Daublin writes:

It's worse than that. The linked article was supposedly rebutting the point that household size has changed at all. Instead of gracefully acknowledging the point, he cherry picked data in two separate ways: he focused on "family households", and he chooses three decades that support his point.

It would make me distrust anything I read by him, if I hadn't already unsubscribed his blog a year or two ago. He is one of those that gets on some point and then drives relentlessly toward it with everything he posts. It doesn't help that it's a populist and pessimistic point.

Personally, I find Tyler's perspective completely out of touch with the modern world. The information age, with the blogosphere, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Amazon, and so on is nothing to sneeze about. As well, GDP growth has been large, and individual incomes have done well if you include non-monetary compensation. On top of all that, almost everyone I know has a better standard of living than their parents ever achieved, and most of their parents can say the same about their own parents.

I only encounter this stagnation idea when reading polemic politics blogs. They love to talk each other up about how the world is in trouble and D.C. needs to Do Something Now. If you lift your head from the politics blogs and take a broader look at how people spend their time and what resources they have available, things look pretty darned good.

David R. Henderson writes:

1. 20%
2. That it has virtually zero relevance.

MingoV writes:

Here are my complaints about economic trends graphs:

1. Failure to correct for inflation.
2. Failure to correct for population changes.
3. Failure to correct for household size changes.
4. Failure to correct incomes for differences in benefit packages.
5. Failure to correct for changing tax rates.

The lesson related to this post is that economists who evaluate household income trends but don't correct for household size differences need their butts kicked.

John Thacker writes:

1. Roughly the same percentage of people as those who had never really agreed with or understood comparative advantage and read his post on that being overrated.

2. Anyone, regardless of prior beliefs on demographics, would read Tyler's post and come away thinking that demographics were less important than he or she previously thought. If Tyler's audience, as he perhaps thinks, libertarians and optimists inclined to both overcredit comparative advantage and dismiss out of hand stagnation (and overcredit demographics), this might cause them to Bayesian update towards truth. However, the unbalanced nature of the post means that it would also mislead people who hold a view more pessimistic than Tyler, causing them to Bayesian update to a position less true.

kebko writes:

It is frustrating to see pundits peacock their progressive politics with cheap concerns for the poor by hand wringing about the unadjusted statistics, and its frustrating to imagine Tyler's post feeding them.
But, he specifically linked to posts by Russ Roberts and me that were direct rebuttals of his stance, so I don't think it would be fair to say he is cherry picking.
We all self censor because we imagine philosophical opponents will misuse information or analysis. The fact that Tyler airs out contentious ideas even when this might be the case is a mark for him, not against him.

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