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Saturday August 15th 2020

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That's what she said

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Boulder “Wealth Gap” Found to Be a Creation of Oedipal Economist


A new analysis of US Census data has refuted earlier claims of a dearth of middle-income households in Boulder, and researchers say the original analysis was the product of an economist’s Oedipus complex.

Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Ernest Redko’s graph of the household wealth distribution in Boulder, as published in an internal BLS journal. Redko was diagnosed with severe Oedipal tendencies.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics economist published the original analysis, along with evocative graphs, in 1998.  The bimodal, or “two-hump,” wealth distribution found by economist Ernest Redko was generally accepted in the field, and the graphs were widely re-published.  But last year, Census Bureau statisticians Marjorie Yang and Arianna Williams crunched the numbers anew from Redko’s original data, and found no evidence of the signature bimodal distribution.  Instead they found a flat, featureless distribution from the lowest-income households to the highest.

The striking difference prompted Yang and Williams to investigate Redko and his work more deeply.  They learned that he had been diagnosed in 2001 with a severe Oedipus complex.  He subsequently quit his job and has not published since then.

“When we found that out, some things started to click,” said Yang.  “Like, his paper is titled ‘Household wealth in Boulder, Colorado: A craving for the womb’.  We never got that until now.”

The revised graph, based on a re-analysis of the original census data.

The analysis by Yang and Williams has potentially significant policy implications. City officials have spoken for years of the need to provide middle-income housing so that teachers, firefighters, and others of moderate means who work in Boulder can live in Boulder.  But it appears that that may not be necessary.

“If this is right, it means we don’t need to worry about market-rate affordable housing after all,” said Mayor Matt Appelbaum of Yang and Williams’ fresh analysis.  “I always found [Redko’s] graph highly compelling, though.”

Redko lives with his mother and was not available for comment.

This post originally appeared in the 2013 April Fool’s edition of the Blue Line.

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