Demographics Americana

An interesting piece from the Washington Post notes that there is now a broad decline across the broad spectrum of the lower to lower-middle class of America. The article notes correctly that this downturn preceded the current recession/depression. While the article correctly notes our previous propensity for borrowing our way out of problems, it ignores the wage leveling effects of global competition, immigration, and the lump that is the the baby boom cohort.

It also does not address that to some extent, the prevalence of higher degrees is not a sign of more education per se, but an outgrowth of a credentialing crises. As upper end positions within the normal hierarchy become hard to get, there is a race toward increased credentials by those who want to grab up these positions. Jack Goldstone noted that under similar demographics, this occurred in late 17th century England: so it is not a new phenomena.

The social pathologies long associated with the inner-city poor – single-parent households, births out of wedlock, drug and alcohol abuse – now stalk the white working class in rural and post-industrial regions far removed from big cities. The middle is falling. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, has noted that as wages and employment levels have fallen for the Americans who have graduated high school but not college, their level of out-of-wedlock births (44 percent) has approached that of Americans who haven’t completed high school (54 percent). Americans with college diplomas or more, by contrast, have a rate of just 6 percent.

The great sociologist William Julius Wilson has long argued that the key to the unraveling of the lives of the African American poor was the decline in the number of “marriageable males” as work disappeared from the inner city. Much the same could now be said of working-class whites in neighborhoods that may not look like the ghettos of Cleveland or Detroit but in which productive economic activity is increasingly hard to find.

5 thoughts on “Demographics Americana”

  1. Obama and Obamacare has accelerated this degradation process by scaring businesses from adding new workers. C-span yesterday carried the pre- hearing on repeal of Obamacare which vote will occur in the full House next week. If it is repealed the republicans can then step to the plate and have their swings without creating another 2,000 page bill.

  2. PP, “If it is repealed…” What are you smoking Dude? HCR Repeal has to pass the Democratic Party controlled Senate as well and that ain’t gonna happen. And then it has to over ride a Presidential veto. And that ain’t going to happen. And then Johnnie Boner will have to DISPROVE, with real facts, the numbers from the CBO that predict that repeal will add $ 1.2 TRILLION over 10 years.

    And in 8 years under George Bush the Republicans never bothered to step up to the plate, never went on deck or even went to battling practice for Health Care reform.

    So what is it, MOJO or fake bath salts?

  3. Ricardo: Bro’ the taxpaying Americans are sick of paying for other people’s responsibilities from cradle to grave. Since Obamacare passed my health insurance went up 10% so who is kidding who. I don’t smoke and I take care of my weight and physical health. Businesses are not hiring because of Obamacare. If you think it can’t be repealed let’s see how many senators will hold up to the political squeeze applied by their constituents after the House repeals it and then let’s see how brave Obama is after the Senate repeals it. I think he may have to put his little scret rug down in the White House and do a few quick Muslim prayers to decide whether he wants to be reelected or go back to Chicago and do his organizing thing again.

  4. The squeeze on the working poor and middle class real wages started around 1982. But the growth deceleration of the west as a whole goes back to around 1973-74. The primary response of every president since then has been to deregulate and borrow. Some were worse than others. Deregulations made the businesses happy, and borrowing made the customers happy.

    I cannot tell any great difference between Bush W. and Obahama. Bush’s Prescription Drug law may have not been as far reaching as Obahama-care, but it was easily as stupid. Even before either was in place you had a system that would allow for life-extending 1/2 million dollar operations on 70 year old+ patients to be paid for by Medicare, but required working poor to go to the emergency room for their medical care.

    The problem is that we are not as wealthy as we think we are. Much of our wealth is/was borrowed. If we were a self-sufficient country that did needed no imports (like oil) it would not matter. But we do need the imports, and when people stop lending us money, we are going to find out just how wealthy we really are.

    IMO we do need universal health care, but it needs to be at least as crappy, if not worse, than the other universal health care systems out there: because that is what we can actually afford.

    For what it is worth, I put more blame on Clinton. Not because he was particularly worse (on economics) than the others, but because his triangulation strategy was able to accomplish more of what wound up being bad policy. That is my opinion for today. If you ask me next week I might have changed my mind by then.

  5. Russell: I agree we need a universal health plan but not paid on the backs of the middle class or businesses. We have 50% of today’s population paying no taxes and many of those getting back upwards of $10,000 yearly in tax credits. How’s about deducting $5,000 or more from those tax credits to go to a basic health plan which provides regular check ups but no grandiose features which could be added for more money. The days of the free ride is over. Everyone must pull their weigh these days.

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