Spending by the Poor, Middle Class, and Rich

August 2, 2012

NPR posted this infographic on spending by the “Poor, Middle Class, and Rich” yesterday and commented on both the similarities and the differences.

How The Poor, The Middle Class And The Rich Spend Their Money

Some thoughts:

  1. I hope that any of my students seeing this would say — automatically — that no, income and class are not the same and it’s high time that even prominent news organizations start acknowledging that.
  2. I hope that they’d also say — automatically — that it’s very important to note that this is household, not personal income, and to then ask:  Really?  Two school teachers each making $75,000 near the end of their careers with little accumulated wealth are”rich”?  If we call the hypothetical school teacher couple “rich”, is that not masking the vast wealth *and* income now amassed among a very small percentage of the population?  In a dramatically skewed income distribution as we now have, it may make sense to talk about the bottom 2o% of household earners as a homogeneous group, but the top 20%?
  3. I’ve clicked through but cannot find what is counted in “education spending”.  I would hope that it includes anything that a family spends to win their child competitive advantage in college admissions, such as life experiences that enrich admissions essays, private coaching and tutoring, travel, and tuition at private schools. If not, this again masks enormous privileges available to upper -class children, regardless of their innate ability.

 

Here’s what’s invisible in NPR’s infographic that makes the “rich” designation of a household income of $150,000  incomplete and even deceptive.  Whose spending are we talking about in that top 20%?

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Source:  http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/why-so-many-rich-people-dont-feel-very-rich/

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