Thursday, April 01, 2004

Tall Tale

Prospects for personal freedom and economic opportunity have attracted immigrants to the U.S. for hundreds of years. Yet, the class warfare view requires that the mobility story is overlooked and the focus is on the widening gap between rich and poor. Statistical evidence that most people do not spend a lifetime in any one income stratum is treated as if it were not there. This is intellectually dishonest; comparing income distribution snapshots taken at different times makes no sense. It does not compare the progress made by real people. Yet, what is one to do if one's world view is at stake?

Just when you thought that the link between urban sprawl and obesity (claimed by CDC researchers, among others) is silly, have a look at the current New Yorker and discover that redistribution explains stature (The Height Gap). Americans used to be taller than Europeans because they were richer, ate better and were likely to be healthier. Yet, data now show that Europeans have surpassed Americans. How and why? We keep too many people poor (and short) because we do not redistribute the wealth as effectively as the Dutch, the writer speculates. Never mind that he does cite the fact that Mexicans in the U.S. are, on average, taller than the ones in Mexico.

When one's worldview is at stake, a few leaps are seemingly OK among the smart set.