Usually, when economists think about how to improve the lives of people, they rely on introspection and theoretical assumptions.
Many an econ paper buries itself in abstract calculations of utility and welfare, deploying pages of equations to derive optimal rules of policy.
For lower-income Americans, holding down a job and being able to pay this month’s bills loomed as the largest concerns. For those in the upper income ranks, retirement security mattered the most. And for middle-income families, health care was cited as the biggest problem.
These findings should give policy makers a road map for how to improve Americans’ lives at every income class. They should also guide economists’ research efforts. Each level of American society has its own needs, and the government should be thinking about how to help everyone at once.