Publications

LIMEW Reports

  • LIMEW Reports | November 2009
    Reports of a postracial society may be premature. Studies continue to show wide racial gaps in income and, especially, wealth; although there is some evidence that income gaps have shrunk over the past half century, wealth inequality is large and persistent.

    In this report, the authors examine trends in economic well-being between 1959 and 2007 based on the race/ethnicity of households. Using the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being, they find that changes in household wealth and net government expenditure are the key elements in the story that unfolds about racial differences.

  • LIMEW Reports | April 2009

    In this latest LIMEW report, the authors present new evidence on the pattern of economic inequality in the United States that indicates higher inequality in 2004 than in 1959. According to the LIMEW, there was a surge in inequality between 1989 and 2000 that reflects the large increase in income from wealth for the top rungs of the economic ladder; the principal factor behind the official measures was base income (consisting mainly of labor income). The authors’ findings suggest a rather bleak picture for the lower and middle classes in terms of sharing the economic pie.

  • LIMEW Reports | February 2009

    Over the last half century, government policy has had an important hand in alleviating disparities among population subgroups in the United States; for example, special tax treatment for families with children has meant an improvement in the well-being of single mothers, and Medicare and Social Security have been the driving force in improving well-being among the elderly. Thus, the measure of economic well-being used is critical in assessing changes in disparities between groups.

    The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) is a comprehensive measure that not only includes estimates of public consumption and household production but also factors in the long-run benefits of wealth ownership. In this report, the authors examine long-term trends in economic well-being in the United States between 1959 and 2004 within various population subgroups based on the following household characteristics: race/ethnicity, age, education, and marital status. With the exception of income from wealth, they find that the gap between nonwhite and white households narrowed between 1959 and 2004, and public consumption increasingly favored nonwhites. Relative well-being for those 65 and older improved significantly, and was 9 percent higher than the average nonelderly household in 2000 (a finding at odds with official measures of economic well-being). In contrast, the under-35 age group experienced a sizable deterioration in relative well-being, as did less educated groups relative to college graduates. The gap between families with a single, female head of household and families with a married head of household also widened further over time.

  • LIMEW Reports | February 2009

    The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) is a more comprehensive measure than either gross money income or extended income because it includes estimates of public consumption and household production, as well as the long-run benefits from the ownership of wealth. As a result, it provides a picture of economic well-being in the United States that is very different from the official measures.

    The authors find that median household well-being grew rather sluggishly over the 1959–2004 period compared to the annual growth rate of per capita GDP. They note the crucial role of net government expenditures, and therefore call for the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus package to improve the broader economic well-being of the poor and the middle class, while also creating jobs.

  • LIMEW Reports | April 2007
    A New Perspective

    Given the aging of the American population and the widening gap between rich and poor—not to mention the controversy surrounding the future viability of Social Security—the economic welfare of the elderly is an extremely topical issue. This report provides a new look at America’s elderly, and shows that the official measures drastically understate their level of economic well-being.

    The conventional measures of well-being do not adequately reflect income from wealth and net government expenditures. Moreover, in the period from 1989 to 2001, there was an extraordinary increase in income from nonhome wealth, as well as a widening gap in net government expenditures between the elderly and nonelderly. Thus, on the basis of the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being, which is a more comprehensive measure of income, the economic disadvantage of the elderly relative to the nonelderly appears to be less severe. Nevertheless, inequality has continued to widen within both groups.

    The results suggest that government policies and programs that favor the elderly over the nonelderly are misdirected. Rather than cutting back on these programs or redirecting policy, however, the authors advocate the extension of similar programs to the nonelderly, such as universal health care, as well as more generous provisions for the nonelderly in existing social welfare programs.

  • LIMEW Reports | December 2006
    Who’s at the Top of the Economic Ladder?

    This report argues that wealth is an integral aspect of economic well-being. The authors combine income and net worth to demonstrate the importance of wealth inequalities in shaping overall economic inequality and defining the disparities among population subgroups.

    Conventional measures of household economic well-being do not adequately reflect the advantages of asset ownership or the disadvantages of financial liabilities. The authors find that the picture of economic well-being in the United States is quite different if the yardstick is their wealth-adjusted income measure (WI) rather than the standard income measure.

  • LIMEW Reports | May 2005
    The Effects of Government Deficits and the 2001–02 Recession on Well-Being
    This interim report compares the LIMEW and official measures of economic well-being for 1989–2002, a period marked by the economic boom of the late 1990s and a mild recession in 2001–02. All measures show that the well-being of the average American household was significantly higher in 2000 than in 1989, with most of the improvement occurring in the latter half of the 1990s. In contrast, while the official measures show deterioration in well-being of 2–3 percent for the average household in the period 2000–02, the LIMEW shows a hefty increase of more than 5 percent. Nevertheless, inequality was higher in 2002 than in 1989 according to all measures of well-being.

  • LIMEW Reports | March 2005
    This report analyzes regional aspects of economic well-being according to four regions identified by the United States Census Bureau: the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. Using the official measures and the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW), the authors examine how the average American household fared from 1989 to 2001 and discuss disparities in well-being among population subgroups and across regions. In light of the 2004 presidential election, the report also examines patterns of well-being in the “red” and “blue” states, where the electoral majority favored George W. Bush and John Kerry, respectively.

  • LIMEW Reports | December 2004

    This report supplements previous findings of the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) research project within our program on the distribution of income and wealth. Some readers have questioned the sensitivity of our estimates in view of our imputation techniques. Therefore, the authors explore the sensitivity of their key findings to changes in the set of assumptions that they use to impute public consumption, which is a major component of the LIMEW.

    The authors consider alternative assumptions regarding three components of public consumption: general public consumption, highways, and schooling. New calculations for 1989 and 2000 show that their initial major findings remain intact using alternative estimation procedures: there is a positive correlation between public consumption and the LIMEW, overall inequality is higher in 2000 than 1989, and public consumption reduces inequality. The results show that their measure of economic well-being is robust under alternative assumptions of public consumption. They conclude that government provisioning of amenities plays an important role in sustaining living standards and should be included in a measure of economic well-being.

  • LIMEW Reports | September 2004
    Alternative Measures of Income from Wealth

    Economic well-being refers to the command or access by members of a household over the goods and services produced in a modern market economy during a given period of time.The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) is a comprehensive measure that is constructed as the sum of the following components: base money income (gross money income minus property income and government cash transfers), employer contributions for health insurance, income from wealth, net government expenditures (transfers and public consumption, net of taxes), and the value of household production.

    Our previous work provided estimates of the LIMEW and its components for households in the United States, estimates of the LIMEW for some key demographic groups, and estimates of overall economic inequality. These estimates were compared with those based on the official measures (see Wolff, Zacharias, and Caner 2004 for more information regarding our concepts, sources, and methods). Some readers have questioned the sensitivity of our estimates to the particular types of imputation techniques that we use. This document explores the sensitivity of the LIMEW to the underlying assumptions on imputing income from wealth, a major component of the LIMEW. We provide new calculations for 1989 and 2000 that show that our initial major findings using the LIMEW hold up, generally, using alternative estimation procedures: mean income from wealth increases by decile, the share of mean income from wealth rises between 1989 and 2000, and inequality is higher in 2000 than 1989.

  • LIMEW Reports | May 2004
    United States, 1989, 1995, 2000, and 2001

    This report presents the latest findings of the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) research project within our program on the distribution of income and wealth. It enhances previous findings about economic well-being and inequality in the United States by extending our analysis to include additional years, 1995 and 2001, and by comparing our results with the Census Bureau's most comprehensive measure of a household's command over commodities, which we refer to as extended income (EI).

  • LIMEW Reports | February 2004
    Concept Measurement and Findings: United States, 1989 and 2000

    The Levy Economics Institute has, since its inception, maintained an active research program on the distribution of earnings, income, and wealth. Experience from the 1990s suggests that economic growth alone cannot dramatically reduce economic inequality. Because we are concerned with the improvement of well being, we have initiated a research project, the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW), within the program on distribution of income and wealth. This project seeks to assess policy options and to provide guidance toward improving the distribution of economic well-being in the United States, and it gives us the opportunity to track the progress of economic well-being using a comprehensive measure. Our expectation is that the LIMEW will become a useful tool for policymakers to assess programs and to design policies that will ensure improvement in economic well-being.

  • LIMEW Reports | December 2003
    United States, 1989 and 2000

    The Levy Economics Institute has, since its inception, maintained an active research program on the distribution of earnings, income, and wealth. Experience from the 1990s suggests that economic growth alone cannot dramatically reduce economic inequality. Because we are concerned with the improvement of well being, we have initiated a research project, the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW), within the program on distribution of income and wealth. This project seeks to assess policy options and to provide guidance toward improving the distribution of economic well-being in the United States, and it gives us the opportunity to track the progress of economic well-being using a comprehensive measure. Our expectation is that the LIMEW will become a useful tool for policymakers to assess programs and to design policies that will ensure improvement in economic well-being.

Publication Highlight

Research Project Reports
The Measurement of Time and Income Poverty in Korea
The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty
Author(s): Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson, Kijong Kim
August 2014

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