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Conflicting Survey Results

Here’s a letter that I sent a couple of days ago to the Washington Post:

27 September 2007

Dear Editor:

Harold Meyerson asserts that “The American middle class has toppled into a world of temporary employment, jobs without benefits, retirement without security. Harder times have come to left and right alike” (“Rise of the Have-Nots,” Sept. 27).  He supports this claim with survey results showing that a smaller percentage of Americans today identify themselves as “haves” – and a larger percentage identify themselves as “have-nots”- than was true in 1988.

Conducting surveys and interpreting their results is notoriously tricky business. How, for example, would Mr. Meyerson square the results he takes as definitive with those of a recent Gallup poll that finds that the percentage of Americans who report being “completely satisfied” with their jobs rose from 28 percent in 1989 to 43 percent in 2006, while the percentage of Americans who report being “completely dissatisfied” with their jobs fell from three percent to two percent?

Donald J. Boudreaux


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