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The Paradox of Household Income

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Changes in family structure make it difficult to measure economic progress for the middle class and to get an accurate picture of the effectiveness of the American economy. The rise in divorce and the decrease in marriage rates especially among less-educated Americans distorts the standard measures of economic progress. What’s really going on is more complicated than the standard story of economic stagnation.

Watch Episode 1 in this series, How Is The Middle Class Doing?


Discussion Questions

  1. How does the change in the marriage rate for people with low levels of education relative to people with high levels of education affect measured economic growth for the middle class?
  2. If the poverty rate didn't change very much when there was economic growth in the recent past, does that mean it will not change much if there is growth in the future?
  3. Why does Roberts raise the possibility that lower marriage rates might be caused by the poor performance of the economy?
  4. If family structure had stayed constant, poverty would have fallen by 25% in the example in the video. But it actually fell by only 4%. Is one of these measure right and the other wrong? How would you decide?