Economic Inequality: Are We Measuring It Right and What Does It Mean?

Capitol Hill Briefing
April 29, 2019 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM EDT

2043 Rayburn House Office Building

Featuring John F. Early, Former Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and President of Vital Few, LLC; Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies, Cato Institute, and Editor, DownsizingGovernment.org; moderated by Ryan Bourne, R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics, Cato Institute.

Some political leaders are saying that income and wealth inequality are at unacceptable levels and need to be countered by higher taxes on the wealthy and more transfer payments. But the data used to support those arguments are often misunderstood and omit key elements of the picture. John Early will describe gaps in the official data used in the inequality debate and discuss alternative income measures that better capture the well-being of different groups. Early argues that policymakers need to get the facts right before imposing prescriptions on the economy.

John Early has twice been assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he became an expert on these measurement issues. He has published a Cato study and a series of op-eds with former U.S. senator Phil Gramm examining the U.S. data on inequality. Following Early, Edwards will discuss the different sources of data on wealth inequality and the role of wealth in the economy.