An interesting dichotomy in economic statistickery

Story #1: ‘Dismal’ prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans – nearly 1 in 2 – have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

One does wonder what the definition of “poverty” and “low income” are. But we’ll stipulate for the sake of a blog post.

Story #2: Fewer Americans See U.S. Divided Into “Haves,” “Have Nots”

If they had to choose, 58% of Americans would say they are in the “haves,” rather than the “have nots” group. This breakdown has held remarkably steady over the past two decades of economic boom and bust…

So: nearly 5 out of 10 Americans are in poverty or are “low income,” and yet nearly 6 out of 10 call themselves “haves.”

These aren’t necessarily contradictory: the first story says “nearly 1 in 2,” which could mean 42%. If 42% of Americans are “poor or low income,” then maybe it’s the other 58% who say they are the “haves.”

But I think we know that’s not the case. Contentedness simply isn’t human nature — we always want more, and we have a disturbing tendency to fall back on “not fair!”

Given the sheer inundation of #Occupy Wall Street and “they have too much!” media coverage, wouldn’t it seem more likely that more Americans would be feeling the class warfare, and believing themselves to be “have nots?”

Yeah, it would, but they aren’t. Most Americans, rich and poor, see themselves as “haves.” Even among those making less than $30,000 a year, 36% call themselves “haves.” Even among the unemployed, 52% call themselves “haves.”

That is a wonderful bit of Christmas Season evidence that my previous cynicism about human nature is dead wrong. Either that, or the methodologies in the two studies are apples and bricks.

But it’s Christmas, so let’s go with the former.

Cross-posted at The TrogloPundit.

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