Friday, January 28, 2005

Paul Krugman tells a lie fib in black and white.

In today's column "Little Black Lies" Paul Krugman tries to convince us that all African-Americans die either younger than 25 or older than 65.

This is his response to assertions that blacks receive less from SS than they contribute to it (well everyone young does now, but the claim is they get even less than other people) because they have shorter life expectancies and so don't live long enough to collect as many benefits as others.

His words...

It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits.

Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men. [my emphasis]

Of course, if blacks die young at a high rate before starting to work, then those who do don't pay any payroll taxes that they fail to recover. Krugman is claiming that this is the case.

But is this claim true?

Going to the National Center for Health Statistics life expectancy data ...

We find that black males right in the middle of a working life, age 40, have a 30% chance of dying by age 65. (The corresponding chance for white males is 17%.)

Now let's go back and look at Krugman's purported "high death rates in childhood and young adulthood" for blacks.

Black males alive at age 5 have only a 3% chance of dying within the next 25 years of their childhood and young adulthood, by age 30. (For white makes the figure is 1.9%)

So their death rate during their past-age 40 working years is 10 times higher than "the high death rates in childhood and young adulthood" Krugman ascribes to them. And the risk that a black male age 40 will die before reaching the Social Security retirement age of 65 -- after paying most of working life of payroll taxes but still too young to recover any of them -- is 10 times higher than the risk that one will die as a child or young adult age 5 to 30. (And 77% higher than the risk that a white male age 40 will die by age 65.)

When Krugman sure seems to have claimed exactly the opposite.

It looks to me like Krugman lied fibbed, plain and simple.

Now, as to his quoting of Social Security's chief actuary as saying...

"careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security" as whites...
... well, one doesn't have to be a preeminent social scientist to realize that the "the nonwhite population" does not equal "the African-American population".

The fact of the matter is that the 1994 Social Security Advisory Commission specifically asked the actuaries to generate and produce exactly this data for African-Americans -- and they refused.

So unless they have done so since then, in a manner that nobody I know of has noticed or cited, I'd say Krugman pulled a fast one here too.