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David Brooks Presents Genuinely Weird Income Statistic

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So, Joel Kotkin wrote a book called "The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050", and David Brooks read it, and got so optimistic that today he has a column beseeching his readers that if we can just hang on for 40 years or so, everything is going to work out OK. So, let's turn those frowns upside down!

I have no interest in harshing anyone's buzz about the exciting world of the future, but this part of Brooks's take on the here and now has got a lot of people doing the same thing as Brad DeLong, which is making their "WTF Face" as hard as they can. The relevant statistic Brooks cites?

Over the last 10 years, 60 percent of Americans made more than $100,000 in at least one of those years, and 40 percent had incomes that high for at least three.

I think I'm going to have to ask Brooks to show his work because that statistic seems to me to be a) not at all part and parcel with what we call "reality," and b) even if true, a pretty misleading basis for suggesting some sort of positive sum "dynamism."

Do I have this right? In the past decade, a lot of people briefly made a lot of money and a smaller group of people sustained a high level of income for a paltry three-year period. That suggests chaos and upheaval, not "dynamism."

Well, according to the 2006 American Community Survey, here's what the income picture looked like:

If only 8.5% of "full-time, year-round workers with earnings" were making over $100,000/year in 2006, then that must have been a real down year for all of you Americans who were making the tall scrilla in the past ten years. Luckily, it's been nothing but good times for America financially since then!

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