Analysis & Opinions - Wall Street Journal

We’re Richer Than We Realize

| Sep. 08, 2017

Government statistics paint an excessively grim picture of what is happening to real wages and the growth of real national income. Although most households’ take-home cash has been rising very slowly for decades, their standard of living is increasing more rapidly because those wages can now buy new and better products at little or no extra cost. The government’s measure of real incomes gives too little weight to this increase in what take-home pay can buy. 

The common assertion that middle-class households have seen no increase in real incomes for 30 years is simply not true. And contrary to a common fear, most members of the younger generation will have higher real incomes as adults than their parents had at the same age.

The government’s growth estimates are excessively pessimistic for two reasons. First, government statisticians grossly understate the value of improvements in the quality of existing goods and services. More important, the government doesn’t even try to measure the full contribution of new goods and services.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Feldstein, Martin.“We’re Richer Than We Realize.” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2017.