Streams

While the Rich Get Richer Does the Middle Class Get Poorer?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Robert H. Frank, economics professor at Cornell University, New York Times columnist, and author of Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class (University of California Press, 2007), explains his views on the effects of economic inequality.

Falling Behind is available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Guests:

Robert H. Frank

Comments [19]

THE BABE OF BAYONNE from Bayonne & Bernardsville

IF YOU WANT TO LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY YOU MAY AS WELL LIVE IN BAYONNE I CAN GET TO NEW YORK CITY IN LESS THEN 10 MINUTES BUT WHEN I GET MAD AND RESTLESS I GO TO MY MANSION IN WHERE
NO ONE EVEN KNOWS WHERE I GO I WILL NOT TELL MOST OF MY SO CALLED PALS I HOP ON MY 2007
HARLEY DAVIDSON AND GO TO MY HIDE OUT IN BERNARDSVILLE MY GREAT OLD UNCLE JACK WHO OWNED PART OF MITCHELL & NESS AND ALSO OWED HIS EYEGLASS STORE WHICH I DID NOT FIND OUT TILL HE DIED THAT HE WAS NOT CUTTING EYEGLASSES
BUT DIAMONDS FROM AFRICA.NOW I KNOW HOW HE PAYED FOR HIS ESTATE IN BERNARDSVILLE.NO I NEVER SQUANDER MY CASH I AM STILL YOUNG AND VERY BRIGHT MY IQ IS 137 YES I AM A MENSA
MEMBER.PLEASE THERE ARE MANY NICE HOMES HERE FOR SALE NOW 2007 SEPTEMBER

Sep. 26 2007 06:06 AM
Donald Carlo from 1905 Silver Court Hamilton NJ near Trenton

I have moved around a few times in my life. I lived in Denver during the boom years and later in the bust years. I have noticed that if you are a little bit better off than your neighbors there are advantages. For one, it's easy to procure services. You can find a dentist, a plumber, a bsbysitter easily. If you are in a situation where everybody is doing well, it can be difficult to get services, especially of they don't know you. You are usually better off doing a teeny bit better than your neighbors.

Sep. 05 2007 06:55 PM
TM from Brooklyn

When I was in grad school, I had a lot of friends who paid through the nose to live in closet-sized dumps and rabbit warrens in "cool" neighborhoods in Manhattan. They would come out to Brooklyn or Queens and get glazed looks in their eyes like "Oh this is so nice."

Now those same people are all coming to live in Brooklyn and Queens and bitching because there's no "night life." Or sometimes even bringing night life to neighborhoods that were just as happy *not* to have "night life."

I'd just as soon they stayed in their "cool" neighborhoods in Manhattan.

Sep. 05 2007 11:31 AM
Marna Garwood from Brooklyn

Are you saying that if I spend savings, I'm taxed on it? Or are you only talking about earned income?

Sep. 05 2007 11:31 AM
Gaines from Knoxville, TN

A tax on spending is a tax on the middle class. Middle class families spend a higher percentage of their income than wealthy. Unlike the wealthy, middle class families are not spending discretionary income - they do not have the option to save as high a percentage of income as the wealthy.

Sep. 05 2007 11:30 AM
Trevor from LIC

To the listeners, this question is already loaded. You live in New York!

If you cared about space, you would have moved out of the city long ago, or never moved here in the first place. HOWEVER, you did get to obtain the status of living in a "cosmopolitan" city such as this, and all the semiological baggage that goes with it (i.e. historical, social, cultural).

If we want people to think more about the importance of equality, perhaps public schools shouldn't make kids read such filth as Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead", and read books like "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (granted, Richler was Canadian).

But I digress...

Sep. 05 2007 11:26 AM
Nick Spano from Brooklyn

This question is null and void. I thought it was all about location. not size.

Sep. 05 2007 11:21 AM
Gene from NYC

Big houses are a HUGE drain on one's time--shopping for them, cleaning them, landscaping, maintaining roofs, plumbing, all the myriad things that go wrong with houses, and more (let alone all the environmental issues). As one who has had to deal with second houses, big houses, small houses, and a tiny apartment, I would FAR prefer the lower-upkeep smaller house, period.

You don't need all that much to live well. As many of our elderly find when they more into a relatively spare one-bedroom senior facility.

I want to live! Not spend all my time dealing with a giant house. Life experience bestows far more status (if less obviously) than physical possessions, imho.

Sep. 05 2007 11:21 AM
Kevin from NJ suburbs

I think there's a problem with the question. I live in a house that's under 1000 sq ft. I would be happy with a 3000 sq ft house and, as an environmentalist, I wouldn't WANT to live in the bigger house since I don't need the space -- especially if making that choice would cause my neighbors to be even MORE wasteful in their 6000 sq ft houses.

I wonder how many people would choose to live in a 3000 sq ft house, with their neighbors also living in 3000 sq ft houses?

Sep. 05 2007 11:20 AM
George Showman from Red Hook, Brooklyn

I would take the smaller house, because at the point of market dominance that we're at now I actually feel it's the more humane answer. Status is something that humans can work out with each other -- it is an inter-human phenomenon -- whereas the other option feels like we're just being 'kept' by the market... plump, content, unquestioning. I'd rather deal with the politics of having more than other people than just have us all lying around watching TV in our perfect homes.

So, basically -- there are huge external costs to us all having larger houses that I can't bring myself to cut out of the equation. But I think this KIND of question begs the question of the role of the market so insidiously that I would suggest it's dangerously one-sided.

Ditto on the vacation question, obviously.

Sep. 05 2007 11:17 AM
Erica from Brooklyn

Regarding the question of which house I would live in...I question why it even matters what others live in. I find myself wondering whether I want the responsibility of caring for and cleaning a big house or a smaller house.

Sep. 05 2007 11:16 AM
TM from Brooklyn

Dammit, I am trying to *get* into a *smaller* space than I have, and I can't afford it!

Sep. 05 2007 11:15 AM
chestine from NY

In France, business development has to negotiate with the communities where it installs itself and answer to its residents, so they have a measure of security and continuity of community.

I like space more than status.

Sep. 05 2007 11:14 AM
Ken from Manhattan

If I am a single guy, I will get more and better dates if I have the largest space than if I have the smallest space. I choose "Option B"...where I have less, but the most.

The fact that most people agree with me despite "economics" shows that Free Market Economics really isn't a science and shouldn't be relied on to predict human behavior or to formulate policy. At all.

Sep. 05 2007 11:13 AM
Gaines from Knoxville, TN

First response: This is a false dichotomy. Ask Dr. Frank to explain why this question is not a false dichotomy.

Sep. 05 2007 11:12 AM
Scott from Park Slope

wait... what was the question? square foot houses? say it again!!

Sep. 05 2007 11:11 AM
TM from Brooklyn

All you need to know that it is true is to be a lifelong Brooklynite trying to do no more than hang on in your own neighborhood.

Sep. 05 2007 11:01 AM
john from upper west side

Once again I referr all listeners to Turros informative book written in the 80's

"The Zero Sum Society"

Sep. 05 2007 10:15 AM
Steve Dyott from Tarrytown, NY

Dear Prof Frank,
I was a student of yours in 1988 & 89. I appreciate your ongoing vocal commentary on current economic & justice issues. In fact, I recall reading a Times op-ed you wrote a few years ago in the height Democratic dormancy and thinking, finally an un-cowered progressive voice telling things like they are. Glad you're still at it!

Best wishes,

Steve Dyott '91

Sep. 05 2007 08:59 AM

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