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Economist Russ Roberts Isn't Worried About the Middle Class

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"A lot of people think the middle class is dead, dying, hollowed out," says Russ Roberts, an economist at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and host of the podcast EconTalk. "And that's a view that's held now increasingly by not just the left…but by conservatives, Republicans, and economists across the spectrum." Roberts' trademark optimism has been tested by the authoritarian shift of American politics in recent years, but he still sees quantitative reasons to celebrate the U.S. economy. He says leading proponents of the claim that the country's middle class is dying have offered "a misreading of the data, or at least an incomplete reading of the data, [ignoring] a much fuller story of opportunity and progress."

In August, Reason's John Osterhoudt spoke with Roberts about how to measure economic progress in a way that tells a more nuanced story about the middle class.

Q: What are the most common errors researchers make when measuring economic progress?

A: There are a lot of different choices you have to make when you're doing a study on how the middle class has done over the last quarter-century. For instance, how do you correct for inflation? One study found that........

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