Tuesday, September 19, 2017

They did it their way

Since my last post was long and complicated, I thought I should follow with something short and simple.  In 1987, the Roper Organization asked "Thinking about the way your own life has turned out so far, would you say it has been primarily a matter of luck or fate, or has it been more a matter of factors which are within your control?"  The same question was asked in CBS News polls in 1996 and 2016.  The results

                  Luck   Your Control   Both    DK
1986           22%        66%             9%       3%
1996           18%        72%             6%       4%
2016           27%        60%             9%       4%

The differences in the relative frequencies of luck and own control are statistically significant.  It seems possible that opinions on this are affected by economic conditions--when people experience bad things like unemployment or reduced income, they are likely to say it's luck.  However, as I recall economic conditions in 1986 and 1996 were roughly like they were in 2016--pretty good but not outstanding.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More old news

About six months ago, I saw several stories saying that "Having just one black teacher can keep black kids in school," to quote NPR's summary.  They all noted the magnitude of the effect:  almost 40% reduction in dropout rates for low-income black boys.  I located the paper on which the stories were based and thought about posting on it, but it was a long paper by the time I got around to reading it, the attention seemed to have passed.  However, last week's NY Times magazine had a list of statistics on education, and one of them was "exposure to at least one black teacher in Grades 3 to 5 reduced the probability of low-income black male students dropping out of school by almost 40%."  So that led me back to the paper.

The thing that originally attracted my attention was not the general idea that having a black teacher would help to keep black children in school, which seemed plausible, but that it could reduce dropouts by 40% for any group.  There is a lot of data on basic educational outcomes like finishing school, and by the standards of social science it's high quality data.  Moreover, there are a lot of people who have studied the issue, so it seems that any simple and straightforward way to dramatically reduce dropout rates would have been discovered long ago.

The paper reports that the estimated effect on dropout rates is -.04 for all black students, -.06 for persistently low-income black students, and -.12 for persistently low income black male students.  Since about half of students are boys, that suggests that the estimated effect on persistently low income black female students would be about zero, and indeed they report an estimate of 0.00 for that group.  So the issue was treating only the big estimate as worthy of interest.  If you believe that there are differences in the effects on boys and girls (and the difference appears to be statistically significant), both of the estimates are equally important; if you don't, you should just report the estimate for boys and girls combined.  The differences between persistently low income students and other students don't appear to be statistically significant (it's hard to tell from the tables), so maybe you should just report the estimate for all students.

There's also a more complex issue which relates to the way that they got the estimate.  The simple approach would be to do a regression with dropping out as the dependent variable, and having a black teacher plus some other variables as independent variables.    But the authors say that those estimates "are likely biased by unobserved student characteristics that jointly predict classroom assignments and long-run outcomes, even after conditioning on the basic socio-demographic controls in X and school FE (Rothstein 2010). For example, students with lower achievement (Clotfelter, Ladd & Vigdor, 2006) and greater exposure to school discipline (Lindsay & Hart, 2017) are more likely to be matched to black teachers, and these factors likely affect long-run outcomes as well."  That is, black teachers tend to be given the kind of students who are at higher risk of dropping out.  The authors had an idea on how to eliminate this potential bias.  They had multiple students from each school, which means that they could include a dummy variable for each school.  That's a reasonable thing to do, since it's generally agreed that some schools are more effective than others.  They also had five different classes of students:  those who started third grade in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.  Because of new hires, departures, and leaves, the percent of the teaching staff that was black could change from year to year.  Those personnel changes would depend on idiosyncratic individual factors--getting pregnant, reaching retirement age, having a spouse get a job offer in another state--so they would be random from the point of view of the students.  So you can use within-school variation in the racial composition of the teaching staff over time as a substitute ("instrument") for the original variable (having a black teacher or not) and get unbiased estimates.

This approach strikes me as clever but not very convincing.  Teachers' decisions to stay or go will depend partly on how rewarding it is to work in a school.  That could depend on student performance (teachers like it when their students do well) or on things that might affect student performance, like discipline problems, or how well teachers get along with the administration.  Things get more complicated because what matters is differential effects on black and white teachers, but I can think of possibilities here too:  for example, black teachers may be particularly interested in how the black students are doing.  I think I might trust the simple results more than the results from their method--at any rate, I'd like to see them, but they aren't reported in the paper.

This isn't a straightforward mistake, but the sort of difference of judgment that often comes up with research, and the authors could probably say more in defense of their approach.  But I will stick with my original feeling that a 40% reduction in dropout rates for anyone is too big to be believed.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Alternate history

This came up several weeks ago, but I hadn't gotten around to posting on it.  On July 26, Elizabeth Hinton (a professor of History and African-American Studies at Harvard) reviewed three books on race and policing in the New York Times.  She said that one of the books (Chokehold, by Paul Butler), "demonstrates that when citizenship rights are extended to African-Americans, policy makers and officials at all levels of government historically used law and incarceration as proxy to exert social control in black communities. Black Codes, convict leasing and Jim Crow segregation followed Emancipation; overpolicing and mass incarceration followed the civil rights movement."  This reminded me of the figures on crime and prison that I showed in a previous post.  I concentrated on crime rates there, so here is more detail about imprisonment.  First, the figure for 1929-86, which was the period covered in the data source (it kept going up after 1986):

 
The next one focuses on the period during and after the civil rights movement:


The rate of imprisonment didn't start rising until 1973, when the movement had either faded away or become mainstream (that is, not really a "movement").  During the period of peak activity of the civil rights movement, the rate of people in prison declined or stayed about the same, although crime was increasing.  In a literal sense, the rise in imprisonment did follow the civil rights movement, but the suggestion of cause and effect is not very credible.




Saturday, September 2, 2017

Respect

The Pew survey I mentioned in my previous post had a series of questions about "how much respect do you think Donald Trump has" for various groups "a great deal, a fair amount, some, or none at all."  Then the same questions were asked about how much respect Hillary Clinton had for the groups.  The averages, ranked from greatest to least average respect for the group:

                               Trump       Clinton
White people                    3.23       3.03
Men                             3.21       2.77
Veterans                        2.84       2.73
Women                           2.19       3.16
Blue collar workers             2.64       2.66
Black people                    2.31       2.84
Evangelical Christians          2.66       2.42
Hispanic people                 2.16       2.85
Immigrants                      2.00       2.93
Muslims                         1.86       2.93
People who support [opponent]   1.91       1.91

The standard errors are about .03 or .04.  The ratings aren't surprising--Trump is seen as having substantially less respect for women, black and Hispanic people, immigrants, and Muslims, and somewhat more respect for white people, men, veterans, and evangelical Christians.  However, it's noteworthy that Trump and Clinton are rated almost exactly the same in respect for blue collar workers--this is one of many pieces of evidence that contradicts the popular story that working class voters turned to Trump because they thought that liberals were condescending to them.  It's also notable that Clinton was seen as having pretty high respect across the board--her perceived respect for Evangelicals, which was lower than her perceived respect for any group except Trump supporters, was higher than Trump's perceived respect for six of the groups.

What difference did these perceptions make?  I regressed intended vote on each candidate's perceived respect for the groups (one half of the sample was asked about women, men, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and veterans; the other about Muslims, evangelicals, immigrants, blue collar workers, and people who supported the other candidate).  The logistic regression coefficients, with positive values meaning that more perceived respect for the group goes with more support for the candidate (standard errors are typically about .2 or .3, and standard errors of the differences about .3):

                              Trump       Clinton
White people                   -0.31      -0.03
Men                             0.12      -0.09
Veterans                        0.66       1.14
Women                           1.13       0.32
Blue collar workers             1.10       1.19
Black people                    1.17       1.06
Evangelical Christians          0.34       0.91
Hispanic people                 0.74       0.62
Immigrants                      0.57       0.04
Muslims                         1.53       0.72
People who support [opponent]  -0.13       0.77

I don't think that perceptions of respect are necessarily causes of the way that people vote:  to some extent, probably a large extent, people are rationalizing the way they voted.  But the way that people rationalize their actions is still interesting.  

A large coefficient could mean that a group is held in high esteem (that people think it should be respected) or regarded as important in some sense.  But from that point of view, the coefficients for white people and men are puzzling.  Another factor could be whether respect from the candidate in question could be taken for granted.  For example, there wasn't much doubt that Hillary Clinton respected women, and it didn't make much difference in support for her; there was a lot of doubt about whether Trump did, and it made a lot of difference in support for him.  So the fact that perceived respect for men and white people didn't matter could be because most people thought they'd be all right regardless of which candidate won (this contradicts another popular story, about how Trump supporters were motivated by perceived threats against whiteness or masculinity).

The combination of these principles seems to make sense of the coefficients, with one exception:  the difference in the effect of Trump and Clinton's perceived respect for supporters of their opponent.  Clinton gained from being seen as respecting Trump voters; Trump didn't gain from being seen as respecting Clinton voters.  This pattern suggests there's a bit of truth in the "liberal condescension" story--that on the average, people cared more about whether Clinton respected them than whether Trump did.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What went wrong?

Two years ago, not many people thought that Donald Trump would get the Republican nomination.  In late July, a McClatchy/Marist College polls asked Republicans "Do you think Donald Trump is a serious presidential candidate, or a distraction from the presidential primary process?"  44% said a serious candidate, and 51% said that he was a distraction.  On August 13, 2015, I had a post that offered probabilities of getting the nomination:  40% for Jeb Bush, 20% for Marco Rubio, 15% for John Kasich, 12.5% for other declared candidates, and 12.5% for someone else.  If I'd gone farther, I think I would have put Trump at or near the top of the others, with maybe 5%. I give myself some credit for not being impressed with the field--this was when people were still talking about the "deep bench." But no matter how you slice it, I thought Trump had little chance of winning.  Sometimes unusual things happen--someone who had little chance of winning could make it because of a lot of unpredictable things.  But looking at the campaign, I don't think that Trump got all that many lucky breaks, so I'm not going to try to defend my prediction that way.  I think that a large part of the reason I didn't give him much chance was that I thought he wouldn't stay in very long--that the first time he encountered adversity he would quit, complaining that the rules were rigged against him.  But why was I confident of that?  I was certainly familiar with Donald Trump--I'd been hearing his name since the early 1980s.  But I didn't really know much about him--I hadn't read any of his books, or biographies of him, or watched his media appearances.  So my mistake was in taking general familiarity for real knowledge about him--I should have started by thinking about what would happen if he was serious about the race, and if I had I would have rated him higher.

The same post offered some ideas about the sources of his support at the time. I said that a large part of his appeal was negative--people distrusted politics and politicians, and he was an outsider.  An alternative is that he made a positive connection to a large number of voters.  Reporters who attended his rallies were often struck by the energy, and many people talked about an "enthusiasm gap" in favor of Trump during the general election campaign.  A Pew survey in October 20-5, 2016 asked separate questions about whether Trump and Clinton would be:  great, good, average, poor, or terrible.  The results:

                          Trump             Clinton
Great                    9%                  10%
Good                  17%                  28%
Average              15%                 18%
Poor                   12%                  12%
Terrible              47%                  31%

That's not much enthusiasm for Trump, but it includes both supporters and opponents.  If we limit it to people who said they would support the candidate:

                         Trump             Clinton
Great                  21%                  19%
Good                  39%                  54%
Average              30%                  25 %
Poor                      7%                   2%
Terrible                 2%                   0%

At least in this respect, Clinton supporters were move favorable about their candidate than Trump supporters were about theirs.  In fact, 10% of the people who said they would vote for Trump thought that he would be a poor or terrible president.

On a possibly related note, of the people who had the same expectations of Trump and Clinton (e. g., said both would be average), 75% said they would vote for Trump.  I haven't investigated, but one possibility is that they were Republicans who figured that even if he wouldn't be especially good, Republicans in Congress would get their way if he were president.  So I think my original analysis was correct on that point--Trump got the Republican nomination more because of his opponents' weakness than because of his strength.  After he got the nomination, party loyalty kept him close enough to have a chance.  

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Don't blame the millennials

I have seen a number of articles challenging the "myth" that millennials are less racist than previous generations, and the rally in Charlottesville has inspired more of them.  For example, in the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell writes:

   "If there was one silver lining to President Trump’s election, it was supposed to be this: Those who voted for Trump because of, rather than despite, his demonization of Muslims and Hispanics; who fear a 'majority minority' America; and who wax nostalgic for the Jim Crow era were mostly old white people.
    Which meant they and their abhorrent prejudices would soon pass on — and be replaced by generations of younger, more racially enlightened Americans.
     The white nationalist rally this past weekend in Charlottesville clearly proves this to be a myth."

She points out that many of the participants in the rally, including the man who killed one counter-protester and injured about 20 more by driving his car into a crowd, were young.  But young people, especially young men, are more likely to engage in all kinds of violence, and high-risk behavior more generally. Also, the numbers who participated in the white nationalist rally were small:  according to Wikipedia about 100 on Friday night and 500 on Saturday.  So the only myth that the rally disproves is a myth that no one believes:  that absolutely no young people hold racist views.

But Rampell also offers some more serious evidence:  a story called "white millennials are just about as racist as their parents," which is based on analysis of General Social Survey data from 2010-14.  It considers five issues:  ratings of how intelligent and hardworking blacks and whites are (each based on one question about whites and one about blacks), how you would feel if a relative intended to marry a black person, how you would feel about living in a neighborhood that was 50% black, and that a reason for racial differences in jobs, income, and housing is that "most blacks just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty."  It reports that "White millennials (using a definition of being born after 1980) express the least prejudice on 4 out of 5 measures in the survey, but only by a matter of 1 to 3 percentage points, not a meaningful difference."
(By "white" they meant non-Hispanic white).

I redid the analysis, making the following changes:
1.  Including three more variables, whether there should be a law against marriages between blacks and whites, whether racial differences were because blacks had less inborn ability, and whether blacks shouldn't push where they aren't wanted.
2.  Adding data from 2016, and 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.  The 2016 data wasn't available when the article was written.  As far as 2000-2008, some millennials were old enough to be included in the survey in all of the years, and generational differences tend to be enduring.
3.  Using averages for variables that were measured with more than two categories (like ratings of intelligent and hard working."  I'd say that a person who rates blacks at 3 and whites at 4 is different from a person who rates blacks at 1 and whites at 7.
4.  The story just included the "silent generation" (born 1928-45), "baby boomers" (1946-64), "generation X" (1965-1980) and millennials.  I also included people born through 1927.

The percent giving the "racist" response for the three yes/no items:

                          Marriage law   Inborn    Willpower          
Oldest                     27%            25%        69%
Silent                      17%            15%        59%
Boomers                   8%              7%        45%
X                               6%              6%        44%
Millennials                3%              5%        38%

The means for the other items (higher numbers mean more "racist"):

                            Don't push     marry    intelligent  lazy       half    
Oldest                    2.85             3.77         1.01          1.30      3.32
Silent                     2.50             3.45           .60          1.01      3.12
Boomers                2.11             3.03           .35            .65      2.97
X                            1.97             2.77          .32            .53       2.90
Millennials             1.85             2.63          .23            .36       2.87

Millennials are least prejudiced on all eight of the questions:  in fact, each generation is less prejudiced than all previous generations on all eight of the questions.  As far as whether the difference is meaningful,  there's no absolute standard, but one way to judge it is to do a principal components analysis, which gives a score for each generation:



According to this, the difference between millennials and boomers is about half as large as the difference between boomers and the "silent generation."  Although the rate of change has slowed down, racial prejudice is still declining from one generation to the next.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The way it is

In the New York Times last week, Nate Cohn writes "The polls don’t tell a clear story [about public opinion on affirmative action]. Some polls show that affirmative action is very popular. Others show that it’s not popular at all." I think that they tell a pretty clear story--a large majority of people don't think that race should be considered in college admission. The difference among polls occurs because "affirmative action" covers a lot of things, and some of them are popular--for example, special efforts at outreach to minorities. There's a related issue that hasn't received much attention--how do people think that things actually work? In 2003, 2005, and twice in 2007 the Gallup Poll asked "If two equally qualified students, one white and one black, applied to a major U.S. (United States) college or university, who do you think would have the better chance of being accepted to the college--the white student, the black student--or would they have the same chance?" The distribution of answers was similar on all occasions, so I'll just give the average:

 White     Black     Same      DK
  30%         23%      42%       5%

 Unfortunately the individual-level data aren't available for any of the polls, but even if you make the extreme assumption that every black respondent said that the white student would have the better chance, less than 30% of whites said that the black student would have a better chance.

 [Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, August 4, 2017

Households or people

In last Sunday's New York Times, Paul Campos (a professor at the University of Colorado law school) says that "the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago."  He shows figures of the income ratio of households at the 20th, 40th, 60th, 80th, and 95th percentiles of the black and white income distribution, and they are indeed all virtually unchanged.

Here is a figure he didn't show:  the ratio of per-capita income for blacks relative to per-capita income for whites.

There is a clear and pretty steady increase in the ratio of average black to white income--that is, the gap has declined.  Why the difference?  Campos was comparing households, which may (and usually do) include more than one person.  Average household size has been declining in the United States over the last fifty years--the biggest reasons are later marriage and longer lifespans.  The most plausible way to reconcile the two trends is that average household size has declined more for blacks than for whites.

What is the best way to measure the "gap between black and white Americans?"  You could argue that per-capita income is not the ideal measure--maybe it should be adjusted for age--but it certainly would involve people rather than households.

Campos's general point is that the slow growth of incomes for working-class and middle-class whites in the last couple of decades isn't because blacks have been doing well.  This is true--the only group that has had rapid income growth recently is people with high incomes.  But the gap in black and white incomes has declined, although the decline has been slow.


PS:  The Census data black and white income is at
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-households.html
and
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-people.html

Friday, July 28, 2017

Livin' in the USA

This came to mind when I was composing a post in which I said that "American society has become a lot more egalitarian over the last 60 years or so."  It didn't quite fit there, but I thought it still deserved a spot.

When Chuck Berry died in March 2017, the New York Times gave him and his contributions to American popular music a lot of attention.  That led me to wonder how much coverage they gave him when he was making hit records.  In the 1950s, he got only one mention, in a brief (four-sentence) wire service story on August 29, 1959 entitled "Negro Singer Jailed| Accused of trying to date Mississippi white girl."  After playing a dance, Berry allegedly asked a young woman (aged 20) for a date.  He  said it was a misunderstanding, but was held without bond "while authorities conducted an investigation."  The story explained that Berry "was popular among the high school set for recordings such as 'Maybellene' and 'Memphis, Tennessee.'"

The next mention came in September 1963, when he was included in a list of rhythm and blues musicians.  There were a few more incidental mentions in 1965.  Overall, it's clear that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New York Times didn't think that Chuck Berry was someone that its readers would or should know about.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The neoliberal period, part 2

As discussed in my last post, spending directed at helping the poor has increased, not declined, in the "neoliberal period" (since 1980).  What about regulation of business?  I found a study that gives estimates of federal spending on regulation since 1960.  It distinguishes between "social regulation," which "includes regulatory agencies that address issues related to "health, safety, and the environment" and "economic regulation," which "is more likely to be industry-specific."  Here are the figures for spending on economic and social regulation (excluding homeland security) in constant (2009) dollars.

Both types grew rapidly in the 1960s.  Spending on economic regulation has grown less rapidly since 1970, and spending on social regulation since 1980, but both have grown.  Of course, the economy has grown too--social regulation has stayed about the same relative to the economy as a whole, while economic regulation has grown somewhat.  This just measures the amount of spending, not the effect of regulation (and it doesn't count state and local spending), so the figures are just a rough estimate.  However, they aren't consistent with the claim that there's been a general move to the right.

So can we discard the whole idea of "neoliberalism"?  I wish the answer were yes, because I dislike the term (partly because there are too many "neo" and "post" terms already, and partly because it is bound to be confusing to most Americans, since the "liberalism" involved is pretty much the opposite of what we now mean by liberalism).  However, there is a germ of truth in it.  The report distinguished between "financial," "general business," and "industry-specific" regulation.  Spending on the first two increased pretty steadily, but spending on "industry-specific" regulation fell between 1970 and 1980, and didn't reach its 1970 level until 2000.  As a share of the economy, it's now less than it was in 1960.  At one time, there was a lot of regulation of prices and operations in industries like airlines, interstate trucking, and communications.  This was cut back in the late 1970s, and much of it hasn't been restored.  As I recall, the deregulation movement was supported by both conservatives and a significant number of liberals (who argued that regulatory agencies tended to be "captured" by the industries they were supposed to regulate).  You could say that the newer form of liberalism is more inclined to accept that markets are an effective way of producing goods and services, but not more inclined to accept the market distribution of income.  This is an important change, but it's not a simple move to the right.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The neoliberal period, part 1

In an interview published in the New York Times last week, Noam Chomsky spoke of "the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period."  There's nothing remarkable about that--I've read many similar statements--but for some reason I started wondering what you would find if you looked for evidence of a move to the right.

A reasonable basic definition of left and right (on economic issues) is that the left is in favor of direct government assistance to the poor.  One major program of assistance to the poor is food stamps (SNAP).  The figure shows real per-capita spending on food stamps (2010 dollars) between 1969 and 2016.  It was about 70% higher in 2016 than in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became president.


As everyone knows, Bill Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it," and in 1996 signed a bill placing restrictions on welfare.  This figure shows federal spending on AFDC/TANF from 1975 to 2011.  There has been a slight upward trend since 1981, but the population has grown too, so basically there has been little change.  It is interesting that the 1996 reform didn't have any obvious impact on spending.


Two other programs that aid poor people are the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Spending on both has increased greatly during the "neoliberal period" (the CTC didn't exist until 1997).  Also notice the numbers on the vertical axis--total spending on the EITC and CTC is now about four times as large as TANF.

    For disability, see this report.  Both the percent of working-age people getting disability and the average payments per recipient have increased pretty steadily since 1970.
 
   Spending to help the poor has increased substantially the "neoliberal period."  You could argue about whether this change should be called a move to the left in policy--declining work opportunities for less skilled people means more government assistance is needed to produce the same standard of living for the poor.  But it's not a move to the right.

  What about regulation of business?  I'll look at that in my next post.

Sources:  SNAP 
   EITC, CTC, and AFDC/TANF.



Monday, July 3, 2017

It is what it is

In his speech announcing that he was pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump said something to the effect that other countries were taking advantage of the United States.  That led me to wonder if there were any survey questions on that issue.  I found one, in a 1999 Pew survey.  People were offered two statements, "Other countries generally treat the United States about as fairly as we treat them"
OR...
"Other countries often take unfair advantage of the United States" and asked which they agreed with more.
After they made a choice, they were asked if they felt strongly.

Among people who had graduated from high school but not gone to college, about 20% agreed with the first statement and 75% with the second; among people with graduate education, 44% agreed with the first, and 50% with the second.  The item was part of a series of about 12 with the same format, covering a variety of issues.  The correlation between education and opinions on fair treatment vs. take advantage was the strongest of all items, with one exception:  whether immigrants strengthen the country or are a burden on the country.

Most analyses of Trump's appeal to less educated voters hold that it was about race, or gender, or a long period of slow wage growth.  The alternative, that it was about what he talked about--taking a hard line on immigration and following an "America first" policy--hasn't gotten much attention.  But as these questions show, there's a lot of support for those general sentiments, especially among less educated people.  Opinions on immigration have become more favorable, as I have noted, but are still mostly negative. Unfortunately the fair treatment/take advantage question has not been repeated, but  I was surprised to see how lopsided the distribution of opinions was--even among people with graduate degrees, people who thought that other countries took unfair advantage were more numerous and more likely to feel strongly about it.  Trump seems to have found a strong current of opinion that no one else had tried to appeal to.  Although comparable questions are not available for a long period of time, there is some evidence that it has been around for quite a while.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Now for some speculation

According to exit polls, Donald Trump got 67% of the vote among whites without a college degree in 2016, which may be the best-ever performance by a Republican (Reagan got 66% of that group in 1984).  What explains Trump's support among less educated voters?  One popular idea is that he cared about them, or at least gave them the impression that he cared.  The popularity of this account has puzzled me, because it's not even superficially plausible.  Every other presidential candidate I can remember tried to show empathy by talking about people they had met on the campaign trail, or tough times they had encountered in their past, or how their parents taught them to treat everyone equally.  Trump didn't do any of that--he boasted about how smart and how rich he was.

A variant is that Democrats drove "working class" voters away by showing contempt for them.  This is more plausible, but raises the question of whether Democrats showed that much more contempt in 2016 than in 2012, 2008, 2004, etc.  That seems like a hard case to make--at any rate, I haven't heard anyone try to make it.  

So why are these explanations so popular?  My hypothesis is that it's because American society has become a lot more socially egalitarian over the last 60 years or so. Educated people don't want to be thought of as snobs or elitists, and less educated people are less likely to think they should "improve themselves" by emulating the middle class.  At one time, you could say that Democrats thought of themselves as the party of the common people, and Republicans thought of themselves as the party of successful people.  Now both parties think of themselves as the party of the common people, plus the fraction of the elites who care about or understand the common people.  The result is that people are attracted to an explanation that is more flattering to the "working class."  When thinking about this, it occurred to me that I've seen many books and articles on how the Republicans can win over working-class voters, but nothing on how they can win back the kind of educated people who used to vote Republican. That is, gaining working-class voters is thought of as a more worthy goal than gaining middle class voters.   

There are two possible objections to my account.  First, it's easy to point to examples of condescension and contempt today.  My reply is that there was probably always a lot of this in everyday political discussion, and that social media has just made it more visible for those who are paying attention.  A second is the recollections of people like Charles Murray (Coming Apart) and Robert Putnam (Our Kids) about how there used to be less social distance between classes.  I think that may be because they both grew up in small towns in the Midwest.  If you read something like E. Digby Baltzell's The Protestant Establishment, you get a very different picture of status differences in America.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

There must have been a reason

My last post was one of several arguing that people in general, and less educated people in particular, didn't see Donald Trump as all that interested in their problems.  What was his appeal, then?  The survey I used in my last post asked people who said that they would probably vote in a Republican primary "How confident are you in X's ability to make the right decisions about the economy--are you very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?", and about confidence in ability to "handle an international crisis" and "make the right decisions about illegal immigration."  The questions were asked about Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. That may seem like a strange choice of candidates, but Ben Carson was the strongest rival to Trump at the time--in this survey, 27% wanted Trump to get the nomination and 21% wanted Carson.  There was no clear third--Ted Cruz had 9%, Marco Rubio 8%, Fiorina and Jeb Bush had 6% ("don't know" had 11%).  The survey also asked people about their second choice, and Carson was the leader in combined first and second choices (41%), followed by Trump (38%), with Rubio (26%) and Fiorina (20%) farther behind.  

The mean ratings by education (lower numbers mean more confidence):

                    College Grad    Not Grad 
Economy
      Trump          1.82            1.70
      Carson         1.89            1.98
      Fiorina        1.95            2.27

Intl Crisis 
      Trump          2.56            2.23
      Carson         2.14            2.09
      Fiorina        2.23            2.46

Immigration
      Trump          2.13            1.87
      Carson         1.84            1.97
      Fiorina        2.06            2.46

Both college graduates and less educated voters had high confidence in Trump's ability to make the right decisions about the economy.  On the other two issues, there was a bigger split by education, with the less educated seeing Trump more favorably.  International crisis was an area of relative weakness for Trump, while immigration was one of strength.  Less educated voters had substantially less confidence in Fiorina on all three areas.

My interpretation is that Trump's appeal to less educated voters was a matter of style--they saw him as tougher and less likely to compromise than "mainstream" candidates like Fiorina.    This is almost opposite to the "Trump cared" analysis--you could say that people recognized that Trump was an s.o.b., but thought that was what the country needed.  Although these data just apply to people who said they'd vote in a Republican primary, the general point is also relevant to the general election.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, June 9, 2017

Who Cared?

A few months ago, I wrote about the idea that Donald Trump appealed to less educated voters because he seemed to care about them.  I pointed out that he didn't do particularly well in surveys that asked if he "cared about people like you"--in fact, he ranked lower than almost all other recent nominees.  But the individual-level data weren't available at that time, leaving open the possibility that people with less education rated him highly.  Now the individual data for a relevant survey has been released:  a CBS News poll from early October 2015.  That survey asked "How much do you think that ___________ cares about the needs and problems of people like you--a lot, some, not much, or not at all?" for Republicans Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.  Here are the average scores (4 points for a lot, 3 for some, 2 for not much, 1 not at all) for non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic whites without college degrees:

                W          NCW   
Trump          2.38      2.51
Carson         3.17      3.20
Fiorina        2.70      2.69
Clinton        2.21      2.12
Sanders        2.81      2.67
Biden          2.72      2.61


Ben Carson stands out here.  I'm not sure why--maybe it was having grown up in poverty, maybe it was his calm demeanor, maybe people associate doctors with caring.  But for my purposes, the important thing is that Trump ranks fifth, ahead of only Hillary Clinton.  He did somewhat better among people without college degrees, but still ranked only fifth.

The survey also asked people if they expected to vote in a Democratic primary, a Republican primary, or didn't expect to vote in a primary.  Trump won over some non-college-educated Democrats and independents in the general election, so their perceptions are of particular interest.

                 R            D            N
Trump           2.96       1.92         2.32
Carson          3.42       2.97         2.98
Fiorina         2.87       2.41         2.36
Clinton         1.65       2.92         2.17
Sanders         2.31       3.27         2.64
Biden           2.28       3.24         2.56

Once again, Trump didn't do well--he got substantially lower scores than Carson or Fiorina among both Democrats and people who didn't support a party, although he did a little better than Fiorina among non-college-educated whites who intended to vote in a Republican primary.

What was Trump's appeal?  The survey also asked if candidates had "strong qualities of leadership," and Trump did well there.  Non-college-educated whites who didn't intend to vote in a primary rated him higher that all three Democrats and Fiorina.  Carson was equal to Trump among people who had an opinion, but had more don't knows.

It's true that voters didn't think that Hillary Clinton cared about them that much, but they didn't think that Trump cared about them that much either.  This raises the question of why many commentators think that they did.  I have no evidence on this, but I'll offer some speculations in a later post.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Cost disease or employment disease?

In his speech announcing that he's pulling the US out of the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump once again displayed his preoccupation with coal mining.  That reminded me that I had once looked up figures on coal mining since 1900.  It took several different sources, which had to be spliced together, so it's useful (at least to me) to have it in one place:


The number of coal miners (the red line) has been declining pretty steadily since 1920.  But the number of tons mined has increased.   That means that the average miner is getting more coal--that is, productivity is increasing.


There are two distinct periods of productivity growth--averaging about 1.7% a year until 1950 and 3.9% since then.  So even though coal demand has grown by an average of 1.3% a year since 1950, employment has fallen to less than 1/6 of what it was in 1950.

The economist William Baumol, who died a few weeks ago, wrote about the consequences of different rates of productivity growth for different products.  There are some services for which productivity can't grow by much--for example, anything that requires one-on-one interaction, like getting a haircut or talking to a therapist.  Those services will get relatively more expensive--not less affordable in an absolute sense, but more expensive in terms of how many tons of coal (for example) you need to pass up in order to obtain them. This is usually discussed in terms of cost--people sometimes call it the "cost disease" of the low-productivity-growth sector.  But you could also call it the "employment disease" for the fast-growth sectors--the number of workers will decline unless you manage to keep selling more and more.  This point of view is more relevant to politics--coal miners vote (sometimes), but tons of coal don't.  

I've discussed the idea that politics might shift from a rich/poor to an open/closed alignment.   I think that the "employment disease" provides another reasons that this isn't likely to happen.  To protect jobs in the fast-growth sector, you have to restrict the rate of productivity growth, and reducing economic growth will reduce the chance of re-election.  An additional point is that it will produce a split between employers and workers in that sector, as employers push for productivity growth.  But what if the poles were reversed, so that the issue was protecting employment in the slow-growth sector?  David Brooks proposed something like this (he said he was drawing on Tyler Cowan):

"On the one hand, there is the globalized tradable sector — companies that have to compete with everybody everywhere. These companies, with the sword of foreign competition hanging over them, have become relentlessly dynamic and very (sometimes brutally) efficient.
      On the other hand, there is a large sector of the economy that does not face this global competition — health care, education and government. Leaders in this economy try to improve productivity and use new technologies, but they are not compelled by do-or-die pressure, and their pace of change is slower.
    ...
In politics, we are beginning to see conflicts between those who live in Economy I and those who live in Economy II. Republicans often live in and love the efficient globalized sector and believe it should be a model for the entire society. ....  Democrats are more likely to live in and respect the values of the second sector."

I think that the problem with this analysis is that Brooks assumes that differences in productivity growth between industries all come down to competition.  But as Baumol recognized, most of the difference is from the nature of what they do.  So there's not much need to protect employment in the "second sector," and you can't make that the basis of a strong political appeal.

People sometimes say that change is coming--maybe artificial intelligence will put me out of work in a few years unless the opponents of "creative destruction" succeed in stopping it.  One answer to that is historical:  education faced an enormous technological disruption before most other parts of the economy did, and it didn't lead to a decline in employment.  As Edward Gibbon said in the late 18th century:  "It has indeed been observed, nor is the observation absurd, that except in experimental sciences . . . the many valuable treatises that have been published on every subject of learning may now supersede the ancient mode of oral instruction. . . . But there still remains a material difference between a book and a professor:  the hour of the lecture enforces attendance; attention is fixed by the presence, the voice, and the occasional questions of the professor; and the more diligent will compare the instructions which they have heard in the school, with the volumes which they peruse in their chamber."  The more general implication is that if productivity growth takes place in these services, it will be mostly in the form of letting the worker give better service, rather than serving more people.  For example, there's been substantial growth in the ability of health care professionals to do things they couldn't do before, but not in the ability to do things faster.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The ideal president

The usual explanation of why Donald Trump did well among less educated ("working class") white voters was that they are profoundly discontented and thought that he might help them with their problems.  I don't think that this fits the facts very well.  First, people are not all that discontented with the state of society, as distinct from politics.  Second, people did not see Trump as particularly concerned with "people like you" (he trailed Clinton in that respect).*  I suspect that the explanation is that a style of tough talk and not caring if you offend people is, and probably always has been, more popular among less educated people (and also among men)--they are more likely to see it as refreshing and honest rather than as evidence of unfitness.

I looked for questions about the qualities or behavior that people wanted or expected in a president, and to my surprise found only one relevant survey.  None of the questions directly involved the issue I was concerned with, but I thought they were interesting in their own right.   The introduction was:

HERE IS A SERIES ON YOUR MENTAL IMAGE OF THE IDEAL
PRESIDENT:

I’D LIKE YOU TO PICTURE IN YOUR MIND THE IDEAL PRESIDENT
OF THE UNITED STATES:

The questions were:

WHAT WOULD BE THE IDEAL AGE FOR HIM TO BE ELECTED PRESIDENT?

The median was 50.  The most popular were 50 (32%), 45 (20%), and 55 (12%).  Only about 10% said 56 or older.

  WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE BE A FAMILY MAN, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?  

74% very Important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE HAS A COLLEGE
EDUCATION, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

85% very important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE ATTEND RELIGIOUS
SERVICE REGULARLY, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

83% very important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE BE A SCHOLARLY MAN,
OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

66% very important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE BE EXPERIENCED IN
POLITICS, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

80% very important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE BE DIGNIFIED IN
APPEARANCE, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

73% very important

WOULD IT BE VERY IMPORTANT THAT HE STICK TO THE POLICIES
OF HIS PARTY, OR NOT SO IMPORTANT?

44% very important

Having a college education was the one that was most widely seen as important, even ahead of attending religious services.**  People who had less education were somewhat more likely to see it as very important.


It would be interesting to repeat this survey now (of course, it would need a change to gender-neutral language).



*I haven't broken these data down by education; I hope to do that in the future.

**Harry Truman did not have a college degree, and in fact never attended an academic college (he attended a "business college" for a year after high school).  He was the last president without a college degree.  In thinking about this post, it occurred to me that his seven predecessors also had college degrees, six of them from elite institutions (Harvard for both Roosevelts, Yale for Taft, Princeton for Wilson, Stanford for Hoover, and Amherst for Coolidge).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The owl of Minerva, part 2

One of the striking things about the 2016 election was that the gap between more and less educated voters became much bigger.  Compared to the 2012 election, less educated voters shifted towards the Republican, more educated voters towards the Democrats.  The American National Election Study asked about vote in 2012, and I used that and 2016 vote to create a six-way classification:  non-vote to Trump, Non-vote to Clinton, Obama to Trump, Obama to Clinton, Romney to Trump, Romney to Clinton.  There was a bias towards recalling a vote for Obama in 2012 (see my previous post), but my concern here is with opinion differences among the groups, and for that purpose the bias is probably not harmful.

I focused on the OC, RT, and OT groups.  Common sense suggests that the Obama-Trump group--people who voted for a Democrat once and a Republican once--will be in between the people who voted for a Democrat both times and a Republican both times.  I looked at average opinions on a lot of issues and that is generally the case.  However, there are some exceptions.  There was one on which the OT group was more "Democratic" than the Democrats:  spending on Social Security.  With 1 meaning that spending should be increased, 1.5 that it should be kept the same, and 2 that it should be reduced, the average for OC voters was 1.19, RT was 1.28, and OT was 1.15.  

There were a number for which the OT group was more "Republican" than the Republicans.  Two involved spending:  crime prevention (OT most favorable to more spending) and science and technology (OT least favorable to more spending).  Four involved "feeling thermometers" about different groups:  Jews, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Blacks.  On all of these, OC was most favorable, and OT least favorable.  Finally, on rating blacks has hard-working versus lazy, OT voters were more negative than RT.  

The differences on spending for Social Security and crime are consistent with what Trump said in his campaign.  He didn't say much about science and technology, but he certainly didn't give the impression that he was interested in spending more in that area.  

The differences in the feeling thermometers are more puzzling.  Trump talked a lot about illegal immigration, with an emphasis on Mexico, so lower ratings for Hispanics aren't surprising.  However, he didn't say much about blacks, and what he said implied that conditions were the result of faulty government policy rather than the fault of blacks themselves.  Some people said that he appealed to anti-Semitism, but I didn't find their examples convincing.*  I don't recall that he said anything about Asian-Americans.  A lot of people said that Trump appealed to ethnic prejudice of all kinds, and this might seem to support them.  However, the pattern didn't show up on most issues related to race and ethnicity.  For example, there was a feeling thermometer towards the Black Lives Matter movement.  OC voters were 66, RT were 22, and OT voters were in between with 37.  That is, it was only on the general ratings of groups that OT voters were more extreme.

My thought is that it has to do with what people now call "political correctness," or what used to be called "respectability":  the things people know that they are supposed to think and say.  The "respectable" position is that you should show positive feelings towards every ethnic and religious group that's part of the "American community."  But there are some people who are are prejudiced or at least feel "I'll tolerate them, but don't tell me I have to like them."  Trump was the first major party candidate in a long time who didn't care about being respectable, which would be appealing to people like that, apart from any specific statements or proposals.





*From Ian Buruma in the NY Times Magazine:  "Incendiary references to a 'global power structure' that was robbing honest working people of their wealth were illustrated by pictures of George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein. Perhaps not every Trump supporter realized that all three are Jewish. But those who did cannot have missed the implications." 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

That was some uptick

I wasn't going to post again this soon, but this morning I read an interview with Heather Ann Thompson, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of a well-received new book on the 1971 uprising in Attica prison.  It reads
[interviewer] You point out not only that the war on crime was a bipartisan effort — it started with L.B.J. but grew under Nixon — but also that it wasn’t really in response to a crime uptick, as many Americans thought at the time. [Thompson] It was pure rhetoric. It was a policy choice, not a crime imperative. . . . The civil rights movement comes North, and all of a sudden, Johnson starts to sound like Bull Connor, right?

Here is a graph of the murder rate from 1960-75:


Here is motor vehicle theft, which is measured pretty accurately because there are car registration records.



For other crimes, there's more possibility of changes in reporting rates, but here are a couple of others.






Finally, here is the number of prisoners in state and federal institutions:


Putting these together, there was a large and sustained increase in crime beginning in about 1960, while the number of people in prison declined between 1960 and 1972.  Of course, Thompson is right to say that  the "War on Crime" was a policy choice; maybe there were better choices that could have been made.  But to say it "wasn't really in response to a crime uptick" is like saying the New Deal "wasn't really in response to an unemployment uptick."

Sources:  FBI Uniform Crime Reports 
Historical Statistics on Prisoners in State and Federal Institutions,Yearend 1925-86

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The owl of Minerva

The American National Election Studies 2016 data has been released.  There is a lot which can and will be done with these data, but I'll start with some basic things.
     1.  The ANES asked people how they voted in 2012, and I originally intended to write about the relationship between 2012 and 2016 vote.  However, about half the the non-black, non-Hispanic people* who said that they voted in 2012 reported voting for Obama.  That's too high--the actual figure would be a little over 40%--suggesting that a significant fraction of the people who recalled voting for Obama actually voted for Romney.  So I'll leave that aside.
   2.  A lot has already been said about the relationship between education and vote, but here is the table:

          Didn't Vote  Clinton  Trump   Johnson  Stein Other
HS or less     37%        21%      38%     1.6%  1.3%  1.3%
Some college   22%        24%      47%     3.8%  1.0%  1.1%
College grad   11%        46%      36%     4.3%  0.7%  2.0%

Although most accounts focused on Trump's support among people with a high school diploma or less (which journalists like to call the "working class"), he did even better among people with middle levels of education.  The major contrast is between college graduates and everyone else.  Most people with no post-secondary education don't vote at all (the figures for non-voting in the ANES are too low, partly because some people say that they voted when they actually didn't, and partly because the sort of people who don't participate in surveys are less likely to vote).
  3.  Income is more complicated.  On the average, Trump voters had lower incomes than Clinton voters.  After controlling for education, there was no clear difference, but after adding a control for being married, it was back again.  (Married people were substantially more likely to vote for Trump and have higher family incomes).  However, the effect of income seems to differ by education.  Here is a figure showing estimated support for Clinton by education, income, and marital status.  (Income is measured by 28 categories, going from under $5,000 to over $250,000--9 is about $25,000; 15 is about $50,000, and 23 is about $100,000).

I was surprised by how much difference marital status made--I knew it had become a fairly important factor but didn't think it would be that big.  Income has more effect among college graduates.  Another way to put it is that education makes only a little difference among people with low incomes, but a lot of difference among people with high incomes.
4.  The ANES also includes a variable for occupation, but this is a preliminary release, and doesn't include the occupation variable yet.  The occupation variable might help to illuminate the educational differences among people with high incomes.

*all of the analyses are limited to people who are neither black nor Hispanic

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The popular kind of populism

In March, the Gallup Poll asked a series of questions starting with "Now, I am going to read several actions either taken or proposed by President (Donald) Trump. For each one, tell me if you agree or disagree with it, or if you don't know enough to have an opinion."  They are, going from most to least approval:
                                                                                                                                              A   D   DK
require companies to provide family leave for parents 
                             after the birth of a child?  81% 10%    9%
enact a $1 trillion program to improve US 
    infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and tunnels?  76   12    12
significantly cut federal income taxes for the middle 
                 class?                                   61   26     13
provide federal funding for school-choice programs that 
allow students to attend any private or public school?    59   26     14

increase military spending by $54 billion?                47   42     11
replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as 
     Obama-care, with a new healthcare plan?              44   44     12
stop all refugee resettlement in the US for 120 days?     40   46     14
impose a 90-day ban on issuing new US travel visas for 
     citizens of six Muslim-majority nations?             40   47     13

reduce the corporate income tax rate                      38   43     19
authorize construction of the Keystone XL and 
                      Dakota Access pipelines?            36   39     25
begin the construction of a wall between the 
             US and Mexico?                               36   56     7
eliminate US funding for international organizations 
     that promote or provide abortions?                   35   53     12
put a hiring freeze on most civilian jobs in the 
                 federal government?                      33   46     20
end US participation in the Trans-Pacific trade 
              Partnership or TPP?                         27   30     43
require that for every new federal government regulation 
     put in place, two existing regulations 
     must be eliminated?                                  27   46     27

The striking thing is that he has not taken any action, or even seriously talked about taking action, an the two proposals that are most popular.  In contrast, he has done something on many of the less popular measures.  

I should offer a couple of qualifications.  First, the extremely high popularity of the first two items is probably partly because of the lack of attention they have received. If they were really on the table, opponents would mobilize to make their case and some of the support would fade.  Second, the survey didn't ask about some things that probably are popular, like stepping up deportations.  Still, it is striking that Trump has pushed the parts of his program that people are no more than lukewarm about, and not the parts that people seem to like.  

This relates to the issue of whether we could get a realignment along the lines proposed by R. R. Reno or David Brooks, which you could call "open" versus "closed."  The "open" side would be in favor of immigration, internationalism, and multiculturalism and be liberal on most social issues.  The "closed" side would be nationalist and traditionalist.  On economics, the open side would support redistribution to the poor; the closed side would favor aid to "worthy" people--people with jobs (especially in manufacturing and construction), farmers, small business, veterans.  The open side would be more sympathetic to market mechanisms; the closed side would favor direct government intervention.  The social bases of the parties would shift:  Brooks says "imagine a Republican Party after Donald Trump, led by a younger candidate without his bigotry and culture war tropes. That party will begin to attract disaffected Sanders people who detest the Trans-Pacific Partnership and possibly some minority voters highly suspicious of the political elite."

Could this happen?  In principle, I think that you could have politics oriented around a open-closed axis.  However, I'm not sure that you could get there from here.  Politics has a conservative bias, not in a liberal/conservative sense, but in the sense that keeping your "base" happy is a priority.  If Trump pushed a large public works program or strong measures for family leave, there would be a revolt in the Republican party.  What about a realignment from the other side?  Suppose someone who was America-first, nativist, and socially conservative won as a Democrat.  They would presumably make public works and family leave priorities.  But after that, why move on to things that would not be as popular and would cause a split in the party?  They might make some changes at the margin, but wouldn't go too far.  So even if an open-closed alignment makes sense in principle, I don't think it will become dominant--the left-right alignment will remain dominant, although open/closed will continue as a secondary one.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]