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https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-wealth-gap-shrinks-11601420393

According to an op-ed piece by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, the Federal Reserve has published a report (https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/scfindex.htm, I believe, or https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/scf20.pdf for a somewhat more readable version) indicating that the lowest-income households in the US increased in overall income and savings during the pre-pandemic Trump years while the wealthiest mostly stayed where they were or dipped a little. Is this an accurate description of the overall findings of the report? (For example, is this an accurate description overall, or are they carefully selecting the data points that support their argument while ignoring those that do not?) If so, how credible is the report itself?

Specific claims (about the period from 2016-2019) include:

  • "middle- and low-income earners [have] benefitted tremendously over the last three years"
  • "Median real incomes grew 5% from 2016 to 2019, the Fed reports,"
  • "families at the top of the income and wealth distributions experienced very little, if any, growth in net worth between 2016 and 2019 after experiencing large gains between 2013 and 2016 while families near the bottom of the income and wealth distributions generally continued to experience substantial gains."
  • "more broadly, the income gaps between families with a college degree and those without one decreased. Real median incomes grew 9% for Americans who haven’t completed high school and 6.3% for those with only a high-school diploma while declining 2.3% among those with a college degree."

Again, I am specifically interested in the following information.

  • Does the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances 2019 essentially say these things?
  • Is this an accurate description of the overall situation (that the wealth gap shrank during those years), or is the WSJ cherry-picking specific facts out of a larger survey to present a heavily biased picture?
  • If that is generally what the survey says, is there any reason to doubt its accuracy?
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    You need to actually cite a "notable claim". And, when you do this, ask whether the observed effects take into account the "momentum" from the Obama administration. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '20 at 20:31
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    It takes several years for the economy to respond. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '20 at 21:37
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    My point is that you didn't quote the article, and what one can read online without an account ends with "but it buries ...". So there's nothing notable. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 15 '20 at 16:57
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    @DanielRHicks Funny how it only takes several years for the economy to respond if it's your opponent who's in charge and your guy who was previously in charge. – pipe Oct 15 '20 at 19:22
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    Income and wealth are not the same. After I retire, I will likely be wealthy, but I will have little or no income. Contrarily, there are people whose income is quite high who have little wealth to show for it because they spend it all. – shoover Oct 19 '20 at 4:41
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Regarding income, the board's pdf (which you've linked to) says on the first page e.g. that

Between 2016 and 2019, median family income rose 5 percent, and mean family income decreased 3 percent (figure 1). These changes suggest that the income distribution narrowed slightly over the period, particularly as the decrease in mean income was mainly driven by families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution (see box 1, “The Data Used in This Article”)

Between 2016 and 2019, families that were high wealth, had a college education, or identified as White non-Hispanic experienced proportionally smaller income growth than other groups of families but continued to have the highest income

As noted in the comments, income is not wealth, and you haven't quoted anything WSJ said on wealth, except in the headline "The Wealth Gap Shrinks". But even on that the board's pdf e.g. says (p.2):

Families at the top of the income and wealth distributions experienced very little, if any, growth in median and mean net worth between 2016 and 2019 after experiencing large gains between 2013 and 2016

Families near the bottom of the income and wealth distributions generally continued to experience substantial gains in median and mean net worth between 2016 and 2019.

The SCF survey itself is not new having been conducted for almost 3 decades now. I rather doubt there is any devastating critique of its methodology somewhere (and hasn't made it to Wikipedia)...

I'm really not sure why this was even a question here. If you really want to ask "how is this possible", economics SE is a better place to ask that... If you want a hint for that, the recovery in wealth after the 2008 crash appears to have had longer lags in the lower tiers.

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They even dare say that (after some commentary that the absolute change is small--a fact evident from the graph too):

The data collected in the 2010–2016 SCF surveys indicated that the sustained economic growth that followed the Great Recession had initially accrued primarily to the wealthiest families. These 2019 data were collected at the end of the longest economic expansion on record, when growth spread more equitably to the larger segments of the distribution.

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    I brought it to Skeptics under "this looked at least somewhat credible but clashed strongly with my preconceptions". That seems to me to be an eminently reasonable reason to ask a question here. As far as your answer, you've presented some reasonable quotes and evidence, but the answer would be improved by finishing with a straightforward statement as to conclusion and level of certainty – Ben Barden Dec 30 '20 at 17:04

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