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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: The White Working Class Since the Great Recession

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his facebook page:

This article by Robert Shapiro that just got released by Democracy journal is worth a look. Shapiro looks at employment data by race-ethnicity and education since the Great Recession and finds strong evidence of white working class decline. In Shapiro’s view, progressives’ failure to recognize the salience of these economic trends–and respond to them–is undermining their ability to reach these voters and provides a clear lane for right-wing populists like Trump.

From the introduction:

“For a fuller understanding of Trumpism, I dug into the official jobs numbers over the past decade. These data help reveal the real economic foundations for many Republican voters’ current hostility toward diversity, especially among the nearly-two thirds of white adults who do not have college degrees. They show two realities. First, that employers have a strong preference for hiring college-educated job candidates; and second, that increasing diversity in employment has produced distinct losers as well as winners over the current business cycle. The data document clearly that new employment at every educational level has tilted strongly toward Hispanics and Asians, and strongly away from whites. Consider the following: The number of employed white high school graduates plummeted by 4,854,694 from January 2008 to August 2018, a 16.9 percent decline despite nine years of economic expansion—while the number of employed non-white high school graduates increased 3,343,341, or 27.2 percent over the same period.

Social scientists have not examined these issues with sufficient care, political consultants even less so. They need to reconsider the employment data for the last decade. Progressives generally need to think hard about this, too. There is a conviction among many on the left that bigotry alone fuels anti-immigrant views, and those holding those views are irredeemable “deplorables.” But the power of that cultural explanation also relies on the conspicuous absence of an economic explanation. The numbers I studied provide such an explanation. If supporters of a diverse economy and country cannot recognize this dilemma, the job issues that millions of their fellow Americans face will only worsen, with the potential result that right-wing populists will win and progressives will lose more elections.”

You may not agree with everything in this article (I didn’t), but the data provided by Shapiro are definitely food for thought.

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