Thomas B Edsall had a fascinating article in the NY Times on Aprli 13 about those areas where Trump support is strongest. It’s another world.
The devastating recession that began at the end of 2007 and officially ended in June 2009 was the most severe downturn since World War II.
The political, social and even medical consequences of this recession have been duly noted, but even so the depths of its effects are only now becoming clear. One we’re still learning more about is how the rural, less populated regions of the country (known among demographers as nonmetropolitan counties), which already suffered from higher than average poverty rates, recovered from the recession at a far slower pace than more populous metropolitan counties.
The fact that people living outside big cities were battered so acutely by the recession goes a long way toward explaining President Trump’s victory in the last election.
In Luzerne County, in northeast Pennsylvania, population 316,383 and falling, the unemployment rate in February 2017 was 6.7 percent, substantially higher than it had been at the start of the recession (it was at 4.6 percent in October 2007). The total number of people in the county labor force declined by 2,544.
In 2016, Luzerne County, which had twice previously cast majorities for Obama, supported Trump 57.9 to 38.6 percent.
This is a national phenomenon. Although the unemployment level has recovered in the metropolitan counties to 4.8% above that before the recession, the level in nonmetropolitan counties is still 2.4 % below the pre-recession level.
And it is a new phenomenon,
Put still another way, counties with populations below one million have seen their share of job creation drop from 84 percent of the national total in 1992-96 to 78 percent in 2002-06 — and then abruptly plummet to 59 percent in 2010-14.
Edsall also discusses the more familiar increase in morbidty data, specifically a
. . . . description of rising midlife mortality — especially an increase of “deaths of despair” from alcohol, opioids and suicide — is, in effect, a demographic portrait of many of Trump’s core supporters: whites with a high school degree or less living in rural to medium-sized towns and cities.
Here’s a point of view suggested by this data.
Bill Bishop, co-author of the book “The Big Sort” and a founder of The Daily Yonder, makes the case that the political split in America is not an urban-rural divide. Instead, he argues, it is between the largest cities and the rest of America.
In an email, Bishop noted that
outside of cities of a million or more — and really outside of the 56 central city counties of these large metros — Democrats lose.
This applies not only to presidential races, but to the House as well. In a piece for The Daily Yonder, Bishop wrote that “Democrats don’t have a ‘rural problem.’ They have an ‘everywhere-but-big-cities problem’.” He provided data on the pattern of partisan victory in 2014 House races on a scale from super urban to very rural. Democrats won a majority of districts only in the most urban counties, while Republicans won two out of every three in very rural districts.
Bishop argued in his email to me that “the split isn’t just about politics. It’s about lifestyle and identity.” Increasingly, where you live
is tied into lifestyle and lifestyle aligns with politics. Politics, like lifestyle, is one way we construct our identities.
The accelerated shift toward urban prosperity and exurban-to-rural stagnation reinforces polarizing disagreements between city and country on matters ranging from family values to education to child rearing practices to religious faith.
It all makes the argumentx about why Hillary didn’t do better seem trivial.
PS There are two maps in the article showing counties, colored by election winners, for the 1992 and 2016 elections. They’re shocking. No wonder Trump thinks he won in a landslide.