Socialist Security #1

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Fri Jul 24 07:12:39 PDT 1998

No answer to your question but something relevant to consider . . . Michael Parenti did some investigation which revealed that the richest of Americans are NOT included in data regarding wealth. I briefly heard him make this statement on KPFK radio but have not done my homework to read the details although I think the crux of his statement may be that the Census Bureau omits the super wealthy...A fascinating accomplishment on behalf of the rich. Parenti concludes that reports about income inequality are skewed (obviously) but the omission would also have an impact on accurately figuring the number of households with incomes over $68,400.

Not quite right. The Census data counts wealthy people but "top-codes" high income persons. This means it does not report their actual income, but a fixed floor amount (I forget what it is). The rationale is to prevent individuals from being identified in publicly-available data. So the people are counted, and assorted techniques are available to researchers to impute their incomes for purposes of analysis. I've never seen anybody object to these imputation procedures on principle, so there is no real political issue here about biases in the reporting of the distribution of income or wealth.

There is also the Survey of Consumer Finances, which focuses on wealth (and wealthy people), and the IRS income tax data. Both of these "oversample" high income persons to improve the accuracy of the sample.

Bottom line is that there is enough data available to do analysis and make waves, though there is always room for improvement. For examples, see Ed Wolff's book on the distribution of wealth (Top Heavy), or the next State of Working America from EPI.


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