'Average reader' wants median numbers

Your editorial “Thumbs up, thumbs down” in Monday’s paper gives a thumbs up to Juneau’s private sector for having seen growth “leading to an increase in both jobs and average salaries.” Sounds great, and that thumbs up may be well-deserved. But your statement repeats a frequent journalistic failing in reporting on wages or salaries: reporting only “average” numbers. As you surely know, the word “average” usually signifies the arithmetic mean, and often masks a few very high incomes lumped together with a lot of very low ones. In these times of real wage stagnation, growing inequality and booming profits, that term should raise a red flag. Please dig into the data and report on the median income increases, or the percentages of the increases received by people in the various income brackets. Then we’d know somewhat better how widely shared this growth may be, and if your “average reader” might second your thumbs up.

John Dunker



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