A Statistically Sound Star Tribune Article on Income Disparities

Center of the American Experiment may or may not have had anything to do with it, but I choose to view a story in the Star Tribune on Sunday (September 17) as vindication when it comes to reporting statistical information in general and interpreting income disparities in Minnesota specifically.

In an article headlined “Household Incomes Making Gains in Minnesota, but Not Equally,” MaryJo  Webster wrote, “One of the reasons black household income is much lower than other groups is because more than 37 percent are single-person households.”  Having not read all Star Tribune stories on the topic in recent years, perhaps the paper has, in fact, been making it clear that comparing black and white incomes is misleading if the unit of measurement is “household” rather than “personal” income.  This is because black households in the state, on average, contain fewer adults than do white households.  Meaning, black households, on average, have fewer adults earning money in the workforce than do white households.  Yes, very high family fragmentation rates have a lot to do with this.

This is not the only reason, of course, that income disparities, along with other kinds, are so big in Minnesota.  But it is a significant one that is hardly ever noted by the media or by any other institution in the state.  I’m thinking, for example, of a high-profile report by the Itasca Project several years ago.  Correcting such misuses and confusions has been a pursuit of mine for a long time, tangibly initiated by an American Experiment study on income differences published a long time ago by Scott Johnson and now-president John Hinderaker.

If the Center had something to do with the relative completeness of the Star Tribune story on Sunday, great.  If not, I say thanks and take satisfaction nonetheless, for no other reason than I’m still enjoying catching, back in 2011, Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman committing the same distortion.  It was a good year.