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Jan 31 / Jonathan

Michael Kinsley’s Failed Math, Again

It’s more than a little difficult to understand how someone like Kinsley could be doing this kind of thing out of sheer ignorance. But I guess you never know…

Michael Kinsley’s Failed Math, Again

On average, Bill Gates and I have $20 billion. If anyone thinks this statement means I’m very rich, then you’re smart enough to have a column in Time Magazine, but probably not smart enough to hold a real job.

Micheal Kinsley pushes this line in telling readers that “the average couple age 65–74 has accumulated a net worth (not counting entitlement promises as either assets or liabilities) of $691,000, according to the Federal Reserve in 2004.” The problem is that this number is an average. It includes the enormous wealth of the Bill Gates types who fall in this age group.

If Kinsley was interested in telling readers about the standing of the typical person in this age group, he could have found it on the exact same page. The Fed reports that the median family in this age group had $190,100 in net worth (this includes home equity) in 2004. Of course, this was before the recent stock and housing market crash so the median would almost certainly be far lower today. …

—Dean Baker

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