Fox contributor misrepresented economic well-being of "average person"

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

Fox News' Gary Smith claimed that the average person is better off then they were four or eight years ago "by almost any metric," even though average real income has declined every year since 2000 and other Census Bureau measures also refute his claim.

On the December 2 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Gary B. Smith, a contributor to Fox News and TheStreet.com's RealMoney, claimed that "by almost any metric, the average person in the U.S. is better off than they were four or eight years ago." Asked by guest host David Asman to respond to "one of the big stories that we hear, that the rich are getting fabulously richer and the poor are getting poorer," Smith replied that such claims were "inaccurate" because the "average per capita income has risen almost every single year since 1990." According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, both of Smith's statements are false.

Contrary to Smith's assertion that per capita income has increased "almost every single year since 1990," the most recent data from the Census Bureau, which defines per capita income as the median income per person in the United States, indicate that while per capita income gradually increased each year from 1992 to 2000, it decreased yearly from 2001 to 2004, when adjusted for inflation. According to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, per capita income in 2003 dollars decreased from $23,870 in 2000 to $23,276 in 2003. The Census Bureau's report "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004" indicates that per capita income also fell in 2004. The Census Bureau reports that, in 2004 dollars, per capita income decreased from $23,902 in 2003 to $23,848 in 2004. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) "inflation calculator" to convert the numbers from the Census Bureau's 2004 report to 2003 dollars (the standard used in the Current Population Survey numbers), that is equivalent to a drop from $23,282 in 2003 to $23,229 in 2004.

Other Census figures also refute Smith's claim that, "by almost any metric," the average American is "better off" today than four years ago. For example, mean household income in 2004 dollars decreased from $62,671 in 2000 to $60,528 in 2004. Similarly, median household income in 2004 dollars also decreased each year over that period, from $46,058 in 2000 to $44,389 in 2004. Another potential indicator from the 2004 Census that the average American isn't "better off" today than four years ago is the percentage of Americans living without health insurance. That figure increased from 14.2 percent in 2000 to 15.7 percent in 2004.

Finally, while Smith suggested that the poor are not "getting poorer," Census data again suggest otherwise. According to 2004 figures, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line has increased from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2004.

From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

SMITH: You know, David [Asman], by almost any metric, the average person in the U.S. is better off than they were four or eight years ago.

ASMAN: Well, let's take one of the big stories that we hear, that the rich are getting fabulously richer and the poor are getting poorer. What about that comment?

SMITH: Well, that's inaccurate. The average per capita income has risen almost every single year since 1990, for crying out loud, far outpacing the inflation rate. More people own homes. The reason the rich, unquote, are doing better is because the rich are generally entrepreneurs, who are creating a lot of jobs that is powering this GDP [gross domestic product] to almost a 4 percent growth.

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
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