Political Animal


TED BARLOW CRIES OUT FOR HELP….Ted Barlow points to an article in USA Today that summarizes a new Federal Reserve report on income and wealth in America and wonders if this can be true:

Median net worth for whites rose 17% to $120,900 but fell 4.5% to $17,000 for minorities.

Says Ted: “Can that be right? According to the chart in this story, African-American household income is 56% of white non-hispanic household income, but African-American net worth is only 14% of white non-hispanic net worth?”

The simple answer is “yes indeed.” Wealth is extremely concentrated in high income groups, and there are lots of high-income whites and very few high-income blacks and other minorities. The full Federal Reserve Report is here, and the figures for wealth are in Table 3. Here’s the median wealth by income category for 2001:

  • Bottom 20%: $7,900

  • 20-40%: $37,200

  • 40-60%: $62,500

  • 60-80%: $141,500

  • 80-90%: $263,100

  • Top 10%: $833,600

If minorities are strongly concentrated in the two bottom categories ? and they are ? then it’s easy to see that their median wealth is indeed around $17,000. And if the top 20% is overwhelmingly white ? and it is ? then it’s easy to see how their enormous wealth pulls up the average for all whites.

Other charts in the report tell the story: minorities own virtually no financial assets (Table 5); they own homes at much lower rates than whites (Table 8); and their debt levels are about the same as whites (Table 11). Add it all up, and minorities have low incomes, fewer (and certainly less valuable) houses, lower inheritances, very little in the way of stocks and mutual funds, and the same high debt rate as whites.

Hopefully it’s all clear now….

EMERGENCY ROOM POLICY….The administration has

EMERGENCY ROOM POLICY….The administration has backed off on its policy of limiting emergency room use by Medicaid patients. A sudden attack of consience of the part of the happy Republicans running things in Washington? Not quite:

“We weren’t troubled by the policy. We were troubled by the controversy it caused,” [Medicaid administrator Thomas] Scully said in an interview. “We want to get off to a friendly, happy, bipartisan start of the year. This clearly wasn’t doing it.”

It’s good to see them reverse this ridiculous policy, which was attacked by virtually everyone on the left and right, but it’s too bad they don’t seem to recognize why it was a bad idea in the first place.

Then again, that’s not really surprising, is it?


THOSE NASTY SUV OWNERS….David Brooks writes about SUVs in the Wall Street Journal:

The main charge is that people who drive sport “utes” are moral savages. SUV drivers “tend to be people who are insecure and vain” not to mention “self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities,” writes Keith Bradsher in his book, “High and Mighty: SUVs–The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.” Thoughtful people are usually skeptical about broad generalizations about people’s souls on the basis of what car they drive.

Ah, but that’s where Brooks take a wrong turn (ha ha). That profile is based on car industry market research, and while “thoughtful people” might not make those kinds of broad generalizations, marketing people do it all the time.

And you know what? Despite what we all want to think, it works pretty well. I know, I know, you are far too complex and nuanced a human being to be ranked and pigeonholed by some mindless demographic/survey/clustering booshwa. Maybe other people, but not you. But you’re wrong. And so is Brooks. We are what we drive. And eat. And watch. And where we live. You better get used to it.

(But there’s no need to be downcast about it. In fact, if you want to have some consumer marketing fun, click here to go to the Claritas “You Are Where You Live” site, type in your ZIP code, and see what they think of you. It’s fun for the whole family!)

POSTSCRIPT: The industry profile of SUV drivers is actually a lot worse than Brooks makes it sound. Ampersand has the best summary here, which you should go read for a chuckle or two.

And me? I don’t own an SUV, but the car I do own certifies me as a genuine rapist of the environment and has almost certainly inspired some rather unflattering market research portraits as well. But we all have our vices.