Over at the New York Times today, Eduardo Porter takes on the notion that working-class whites ignore their economic interests and vote for Republicans because of social issues like abortion and guns:
This view fits a common narrative among liberal analysts of American politics….But it largely misses the mark….There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.
Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.
This is very badly misleading. Let’s plow our way through a fistful of charts to get at the truth. First up, here’s the employment level:
Porter is right: if you look at the raw number of jobs, blacks and Hispanics have gotten most of them. Whites are at about the same level as they were in 2007. How can this be? That’s easy: it’s because the white population is at about the same level as it was in 2007
Whites have the same number of jobs as in 2007 because there are the same number of whites as in 2007. Hispanics and blacks have more jobs because there are more Hispanics and blacks. This means nothing. What you’d like to know is what percentage of each group is employed:
These numbers rattle around a bit. Whites did better in 2010-13 while blacks and Hispanics have done better in 2014-16. At this point they’re all within a few points of each other. Now put all this together and you get the unemployment rate:
All three groups are at nearly the exact same level as they were in 2007, which means that all the new jobs have been shared out equally by population. Whites have done about as well as anyone else, and since whites started out ahead, it means they’re still ahead. Here’s the unemployment rate today, which is nearly identical to the rate in 2007:
- Whites: 4.2 percent
- Hispanics: 5.7 percent
- Blacks: 8.1 percent
If you take a look at this stuff without accounting for population growth you’ll be badly misled. When it comes to jobs, whites had it better than blacks and Hispanics in 2007 and they still do today by about the same amount. They haven’t been screwed by the job market any more than anyone else, and they haven’t gained or lost ground. After ten years with a huge recession in between, we’re all back where we started.