Washington Post Reports That David Autor Needs to Read His Research on Inequality More Carefully

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Friday, 23 May 2014 04:44

The Post ran a piece highlighting research by M.I.T. economist David Autor that purportedly shows the wage premium earned by college grads is the main source of inequality in the economy today.This is presented as a counter to much analysis showing that the income gains of the richest 1 percent has been the major source of inequality. The data presented in the piece do not support Autor's claim.

In the case of full-time male workers, Autor's data show that full-time male workers with a college degree have seen an increase in real wages of just 3.0 percent from their peak in 1973 to 2012. This was a period in which productivity almost doubled. Women college grads did considerably better over this period, but even women with college degrees saw essentially no wage gain from 2001 to 2012, a period in which productivity increased by more than 25 percent.

Autor's data indicate that most college grads have not shared evenly in the economy's growth over the last four decades. The much smaller segment of the workforce with advanced degrees have done considerably better, but this puts the cutoff between winners and losers at advanced degrees and everyone else, not between college grads at everyone else.