Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Basic Journamalism: David Brooks Once Again

Jared Bernstein wastes the power of his mighty Krell-like brain trying to reproduce the... are we allowed to call them "thought processes"?... of David Brooks:

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (CJR Daily Jumps the Shark Edition): I've been trying daily to get to the bottom of this statement by Brooks, from his Sept 7 oped:

"The typical male worker with some college but no degree has seen his income rise from $34,000 in 2000 to about $40,000 today."

Though Brooks fails to note whether these values are adjusted for inflation, the implication is that they are, for if not, the comparison has little meaning in the context of his piece. This implies a $6,000 increase in the real income of this group, a vastly different trend than any other income series over this period. The median household income for example, is down about 3% in real terms over the years 2000-05. That's about the same loss for the real annual earnings of college grads.

If Brooks failed to adjust for inflation, this very important information was omitted. If so, it is not at all clear why nominal income changes (unadjusted for inflation) are relevant in his analysis.

As an economist whose work centers around such comparisons, I've gotten many questions as to how Brooks's trend can be accurate, given the fact that it contradicts every other data series on wages and incomes in recent years.

I asked Brooks, through email, for an explanation and have yet to get one.

I sent a note to David Shipley, editor of the oped page at the New York Times and was told that my note was forwarded to Brooks's editor, from whom I have not heard. The Times has neither corrected nor explained the data in the oped.

I find it amazing that they haven't addressed this.

And:

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (CJR Daily Jumps the Shark Edition): By the way, just for fun, I think this might be what he did. If this is right, he did adjust for inflation, but the number is still wrong, at least as I see it. I think what he's citing is the median earnings of 25-34 year-old males, some college but no degree, in 2000, and the median earnings of 35-44 year-old males, some college in 2005.

Here's the table (2005 $s) and sources...

Median earnings, males, some college, no degree, 2005 $
Real Earnings, Men, Some College

Age	     Year	     Real 05$	
25-34	2000	      34,088 	
35-44	2005	      41,551 	

Source: Census	

The clue is he wrote: "Workers continue to see their wages rise as they age. The typical male worker with some college but no degree has seen his income rise from $34,000 in 2000 to about $40,000 today." So maybe he's using these different age groups. The problem with this is that he's comparing ten-year cohorts over five years. Someone who's 27 in 2000 is 32 in 2005 and clearly not in the 35-44 group. So it's really apples and oranges...

Sources: http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032001/perinc/new03_091.htm

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032001/perinc/new03_101.htm

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/perinc/new03_163.htm

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/perinc/new03_181.htm

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