Most journalists, scholars and policy wonks are members of the upper middle class. This undoubtedly influences their (OK, our) treatment of inequality. Those of us in the upper middle class typically find it more comfortable to examine the problems of inequality way up into the stratosphere of the super-rich, or towards the bottom of the pile among families in poverty or with low incomes. It is discomfiting to think that the inequality problem may be closer to home.
Pointer from Mark Thoma.
I recommend the entire Reeves piece. Readers of Robert Putnam, Charles Murray, and this blog will not be surprised that
the gaps by income in family structure are striking. There are more never-married than married adults (aged 35 to 40) in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution (37 percent v. 33 percent). In the top quintile, the picture is reversed: a large majority of household heads (83 percent) are married, while just 11 percent have never been married
Efforts to increase redistribution, or loosen licensing laws, or free up housing markets, or reform school admissions can all run into the solid wall of rational, self-interested upper middle class resistance. This is when the separation of the upper middle class shifts from being a sociological curiosity to an economic and political problem.
He links to a piece from Reihan Salam several months ago.
Take away the mortgage interest deduction from a Koch brother and he’ll barely notice. Take it away from a two-earner couple living in an expensive suburb and you’ll have a fight on your hands. So the upper middle class often uses its political muscle to foil the fondest wishes of egalitarian liberals.
The latter, of course, coming largely from the upper middle class.
Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles like to point out that there are policies available that, contra an old book from Arthur Okun, could both reduce inequality and improve economic efficiency. However, these are the policies on which the upper middle class is dug in.