America’s “middle class” shrinks, as many move into the upper middle class

The Financial Times has a diagram showing that less than 50% of Americans are now viewed as “middle income”. Elsewhere I’ve pointed out that almost 90% of Americans self-identify as middle class, so these stories are highly misleading.  Here I’d like to point to another problem with the analysis:

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.20.55 PMDo you see the problem?  The main reason that the middle income group has shrunk is that more and more Americans have incomes above the (arbitrary) cut-off point, and fewer and fewer are either “middle income” or poor.

The middle class is shrinking because we are becoming better off.

Let me head off some comments by acknowledging that there are certain areas that are worse off than in 1971, such as Detroit. But overall, the country is more prosperous than ever.  (Also note that these are inflation-adjusted incomes.)

Then why is Trump doing so well?  For the same reason the Polish version of Trump did well in the recent election, despite per capita incomes in Poland doubling since 2004.  What is that reason?  I have no idea, but it obviously wasn’t stagnant incomes in Poland, or in Massachusetts for that matter (where Trump got 49%.)

I do see more people at the very bottom ($0 to $5000) of the graph, and don’t know the reason why. It could be due to expansion of the welfare state, the break-up of the traditional family, or perhaps growth in the underground economy. Nonetheless, it is cause for concern.  But it has nothing to do with the mythical decline in the “middle class.”

Speaking of the FT, Martin Wolf has an excellent piece on Trump.


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67 Responses to “America’s “middle class” shrinks, as many move into the upper middle class”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. April 2016 at 16:15

    Maybe so, Sumner, but Trump support in Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, and Arkansas is clearly correlated with higher unemployment, and Trump support in Wisconsin was heavily correlated with lower per capita income.

  2. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. April 2016 at 16:22

    BTW, Teddy Roosevelt was a strong advocate of the protective tariff.

  3. Gravatar of Russ Abbott Russ Abbott
    16. April 2016 at 16:33

    The problem is with the way they identify the middle of the income spectrum. The way I would do it is to count the highest bars (not including the rightmost bar, which isn’t really a bar) until you get up to 50% of the people. Those bars will be the middle class.So the first 5 bars would be the one at the left edge of the shaded area plus the four to its left.

  4. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. April 2016 at 16:47

    BTW, just as Scott Adams says, Colorado was a landslide victory for Donald J. Trump:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/let-me-ask-america-a-question-1460675882

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. April 2016 at 17:25

    Harding, Trump did poorest in the industrial parts of Wisconsin (the southeast) and best in the hunting and fishing vacationland (northwest.)

    And what does Roosevelt have to do with this post? The GOP was the protectionist party back then, everyone knows that.

  6. Gravatar of Simon Turkel Simon Turkel
    16. April 2016 at 17:32

    Thank you for all your notes on Trump. Greatly needed. In addition to Wolf, see Adam Gopnik, “A Walk in Rome” in The New Yorker.
    Thank you

  7. Gravatar of james elizondo james elizondo
    16. April 2016 at 17:55

    My gut feeling is telling me this horribly wrong. Guess i better investigate

  8. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. April 2016 at 18:10

    The FT article you linked to shows the horse of Trump cracking TR’s head on MT. Rushmore.

    “and best in the hunting and fishing vacationland (northwest.)”

    -Probably because the people there aren’t rich and would find Trump’s proposed industrial jobs preferable to the jobs they already have.

  9. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    16. April 2016 at 18:44

    The explanation seems pretty simple. Many people who expected to be doing as well as the typical middle class find themselves falling behind people who had moved into the upper middle class.

    The upper middle class has helped bid up the price of things the middle class could buy before i.e. house prices, vacations, education. Or the middle middle class can not keep up and feel poorer by comparison.

    I would assume Massachusetts has a lot of people who have moved into the upper middle class making the middle middle class feeling left behind

  10. Gravatar of Gary Anderson Gary Anderson
    16. April 2016 at 19:03

    I think the price of real estate should be figured in, not just income. When you have Google engineers sleeping out in the Google parking lot, you start understanding what income to real estate is telling us.

    I have a Bentley grad relative who has a 1.5 million dollar mortgage and he views it as a good business decision, but it as scary, you know.

  11. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. April 2016 at 19:12

    Re middle class:

    I dunno.

    Remember, FICA taxes are far higher than 50 years ago. My father paid a 2% to 4% rate for much of his career. I paid 13%-15% for much of mine (I am in Sumner’s age cohort exactly).

    The sales tax in LA County used to be 3%, now it is pushing double-digits.

    In many major cities, housing prices (due to property zoning, see Kevin Erdmann) are much higher.

    College education costs have exploded.

    Health care is obviously better, but also obviously more expensive. It does make one feel richer to get better care, although it should.

    Two-income families? Sure, if leisure time does not count as income…then two-income families are better off by financial measures.

    People drive small dinky sardine-can cars built for midgets, instead of gorgeous Chevy Impalas sprouting wings.

    In sum, I suspect the middle-class in Los Angeles in many regards is less well off and smaller than 50 years ago. That’s how I saw it.

  12. Gravatar of Chris H Chris H
    16. April 2016 at 20:30

    The foreign born population has expanded 400% in absolute terms from 1970 and 300% in terms of being a portion of the population. On average the foreign born in the US makes about a fourth as much as native born americans (though that trend seems to be mostly driven by Latin American immigrants, most east and south asian immigrants have higher than native incomes), and a poverty rate 7% higher. That jump on the very lowest end of the chat is likely explained pretty much entirely by immigrants, most of whom are likely still better off than they were in the home countries.

    So the native born whites backing Trump probably haven’t been getting poorer. But what might be happening is the Trump backers aren’t getting much richer either. On the other hand, for the past 30 years, they’ve been seeing people they considered their social equals and peers who have managed better in a tech/service oriented economy rising and beginning to distance themselves from the folks back home. With their college degrees, cosmopolitain outlook, and disdain for many working class values, the new bourgeoisie have made themselves increasingly the new standard for American culture. Worse, as they’ve distanced themselves from the folks who didn’t get university degrees, they viewed high-end immigrants as more culturally acceptable than people who always viewed themselves as “middle class” which in traditional American parlance has meant “good, maybe even ideal, social standing.” Now people call them racists and lump them together with poor white rednecks who’ve been low class forever.

    So no, Trump support isn’t about losing economic position, they haven’t done so. It’s about losing relative social standing, which Trump supporters have seen collapse before their eyes.

    It’s worth noting this model actually works pretty well for Poland as well. Per capita GDP has risen all boats, but some have risen a lot faster than others. 1980s Poland had a gini of around .25 and now is about .33 (though that has fallen a bit in the past few years so it’s not a 100% match with the rise of Polish populism).

    You could either call this a pro-equality reaction, though I lean more towards viewing it as an envy-based political movement. “We’re no longer the most socially praised group in society so let’s burn this fucker down!” On the plus side, the Trump coalition seems pretty weak overall, they’ve only been winning in one party and only because the rest of the Republicans are too internally divided to form a coherent response. And even with that internal in-fighting and collapse there seems to be a very good possibility Trump won’t win the majority of Republican delegates OR votes and will lose in a contested convention.

  13. Gravatar of Mark Zucker Mark Zucker
    16. April 2016 at 20:52

    The AEI had an article about this a couple years ago:
    http://www.aei.org/publication/yes-the-middle-class-has-been-disappearing-but-they-havent-fallen-into-the-lower-class-theyve-risen-into-the-upper-class/

    I would say I’m surprised the ‘shrinking middle class’ mantra still keeps getting repeated even after having been refuted years ago, but I’d be lying sadly.

    Btw, why do we even still talk about discrete economic classes anymore? And why do economists trouble themselves about such trivial things as whether people ‘identify’ as belonging to one class or another? That is more a reflection of what they see on TV and what cultural values they aspire to emulate than it does about their actual economic position.

  14. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    16. April 2016 at 21:55

    So let’s suppose you’re right, and incomes aren’t stagnant. Would you at least agree that many people believe they are stagnant?

    That could explain the rise of Trump and Sanders even if you’re right that they aren’t stagnant.

  15. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    16. April 2016 at 22:02

    The person who pointed to relative status is onto something. 15-20 years ago, Cambridge, South Boston, etc., were all working class neighborhoods. You could rent an apartment and park you car along the Charles (or the ocean) and enjoy a Saturday stroll. Now parking is gone, apartments replaced by million dollar condos, and the working class has been displaced to Trumpburbs like Revere or Weymouth.

    This pattern is pervasively true. Go to the Jersey Shore, or Florida, or Long Island, and the cheap motels are demolished and replaced by luxury condos. It’s the same with leisure, like Fenway or Disney World.

    Entire communities, like Phoenix, or Las Vegas, or North Florida are economic refugee colonies for working class people forced out of now un-affordable markets, and these displaced communities lean Trump.

    I could go on with more examples, public parks that used to be family destinations…

    Ask yourself what America is going to look like when it gets to a billion people: Leisure, recreation, housing, traffic, and environment. Will it be like Rio, or China?

  16. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    16. April 2016 at 22:27

    I most certainly waste my time posting here, however. Trump is a horribly flawed candidate whom I oppose, but the Martin Wolf column is also profoundly ignorant of the political forces at play.

    It’s deeply pointless debating with people like Wolf (or those who take Wolf seriously) who attribute Trumpism to the right-wing obstructionism. Trumpism is a strange mix of personality cult, fear of the consequences of open borders and mass population growth, threatening hypocrisies of PC culture (which themselves are rooted in relative status-seeking), and a Sanders-ist desire to build up the middle class.

    I’ve given up on this political cycle. There is a four-way split in politics: Sanders/Clinton/Ryan/Cruz roughly define each camp. Trump is not truly part of the four-way split, because he is a mostly personality cult, but also heavily transectional across the four camps.

    I believe once the dust of this election season settles, wiser minds will realize each camp has valid points. The articulate conservatism of Cruz (and liberalism of Sanders) contrast nicely against the nihilistic cronyism of the Clinton/Ryan camps. Even if the former are ultimately rejected, the articulation is clarifying w.r.t. expectations imposed upon the latter.

  17. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    16. April 2016 at 23:22

    “What is that reason? I have no idea, but it obviously wasn’t stagnant incomes in Poland.”

    Universities are basically global cities that swear off traditional loyalties and identities tied to nation and ethnic groups. Academics have spent their life in these thoroughly globalized cultures and are shocked when regular Polish people don’t want their society and culture and identity permanently exterminated. Academics are even horrified to hear Polish people sing old patriotic songs as a sign of resistance! An economist just thinks, GDP is up 2%, who cares about complete ethnic extermination?

    Sumner, I probably sound crazy to your ears or eyes. At least read and reason with someone like Alain Finkielkraut who expresses my viewpoint and the Trump viewpoint more eloquently and academically.

  18. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    17. April 2016 at 02:30

    “Universities are basically global cities that swear off traditional loyalties and identities tied to nation and ethnic groups. Academics have spent their life in these thoroughly globalized cultures and are shocked when regular Polish people don’t want their society and culture and identity permanently exterminated.”
    Oh, those Academic fiends… Not to mention Jews, Esperantists and Freemasons.

  19. Gravatar of H_WASSHOI (Maekawa Miku-nyan lover) H_WASSHOI (Maekawa Miku-nyan lover)
    17. April 2016 at 03:37

    I bet the 0-5000$ people could have good potential to live better in Japan.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. April 2016 at 05:03

    Thanks Simon.

    James, Has your “gut” been relying on the media? Always a bad choice.

    Gary, You said:

    “I think the price of real estate should be figured in, not just income.”

    Try reading the post again. And then just go away.

    Chris, You said:

    “The foreign born population has expanded 400% in absolute terms from 1970 and 300% in terms of being a portion of the population. On average the foreign born in the US makes about a fourth as much as native born americans (though that trend seems to be mostly driven by Latin American immigrants, most east and south asian immigrants have higher than native incomes), and a poverty rate 7% higher. That jump on the very lowest end of the chat is likely explained pretty much entirely by immigrants, most of whom are likely still better off than they were in the home countries.”

    Your data is way off, immigrants make far more than you suggest, and I’m confident they don’t explain the rise in the 0 to $5000 group.

    Thanks Mark.

    Mike, Do people in Poland also believe incomes are stagnant? And why did Trump do so well in Massachusetts, which is a state that has done unusually well? There’s more than income going on here.

    Steve, Change is always occurring. I recall the 1960s, which was supposedly a golden age for the middle class. Whites were pushed out of urban neighborhoods that were becoming minority dominated. There was lots of stress back then too.

    Massimo, The Poles are not threatened with being overwhelmed by non-Poles. Their culture is safe, because not that many people want to move there. Indeed many Poles prefer to move to those supposedly horrible cosmopolitan cultures like Britain. But what the Poles need to realize is that it’s normal for societies to change over time, become more sophisticated, more liberal minded. Bigotry is not a cultural value worth holding on to. Should we regret that “Southern culture” of the 1950s is mostly gone? Should we regret that anti-gay culture is declining in America?

    I’d add that lots of the bigotry in Eastern Europe is directed against the Roma, who have lived there for 100s of years, and are not immigrants in any meaningful sense. So it’s not just about preserving culture, it’s also about bigotry.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. April 2016 at 05:03

    Wasshoi, I agree.

  22. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    17. April 2016 at 05:44

    Scott,

    The Martin Wolf article has one excellent paragraph criticizing Trump followed by many paragraphs of stupid, self-indulgent, idiotic political analysis. He hates the Republican Party and the current alignment of Trump as a Republican allows him to spew his vitriol about his political enemy. OK, but does Wolf recognize that 60% or more of Republicans DO NOT LIKE TRUMP!!! So in fact many Republican voters are showing that they are NOT fooled by Trump. But Wolf is blind to this for all he sees is an opportunity to blame the GOP.

    The Liberal pundits who are so quick to blame Republicans and Conservatism for Trump are strangely silent about the vote in the Democratic primaries, where a Socialist has been winning some states with 70% of the vote. Does that not speak volumes about failure and dissatisfaction in the Democratic Party? This ought to be a huge story and an embarrassment to the Democrats. But it is not because (a) many of them agree with the Socialist and (b) criticizing their own team does not serve the agenda of crushing their political enemy – which is the only goal that matters to those who see political means and ends as everything.

  23. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    17. April 2016 at 05:57

    Scott,

    The statistic about income levels is only a number and what matters to people is what they feel. As you wrote in your response to Steve, change is always occurring. Forty years ago people were stressed about inflation and felt squeezed in the purchase of food & clothing. Now they are stressed about paying the costs of health care and college education – which costs in the 1970s were minor, if not inconsequential.

  24. Gravatar of RN RN
    17. April 2016 at 06:15

    This is the biggest sack of BS I’ve ever read here. Median wages have stagnated for decades. It makes no difference what people “identify” as. “People” don’t have the first clue about their place in the economic universe. Inequality is off the charts, beyond even the gilded age. The number of people living paycheck to paycheck is near an all time high, and the median level of savings in the bank is tiny.

    This post is complete political bullshit, put forth by a tenured professor who sits back on his protected post and watches the average person get trashed.

  25. Gravatar of Arilando Arilando
    17. April 2016 at 06:23

    Pretty amazing that nearly 8% of americans live in households with an income of 200k+, versus only around 1 percent in 1971. That’s clear evidence that the standard of living since then has increased quite a bit for a lot of people.

  26. Gravatar of Gary Anderson Gary Anderson
    17. April 2016 at 06:53

    Interesting response, Scott. Ben basically said the same thing about the cost of living but with regard to taxes these days. I reread the article and don’t see anything about real estate. Perhaps you could instruct me since you are still an instructor.

    By the way, like I always do, I linked to you positively in this article but you may be interested in Christopher Phelan’s take, showing that the Fed is slow growth from here on out: http://www.talkmarkets.com/content/economics–politics-education/federal-reserve-mandates-slow-growth-so-fed-must-finance-american-infrastructure?post=91756&uid=4798

  27. Gravatar of Gary Anderson Gary Anderson
    17. April 2016 at 07:44

    And, of course, since the Fed is slow growth forever, as I wrote about many times (but you didn’t comment, Scott), due to demand for bonds as collateral, etc., the New Monetarists like Dr. Williamson are in total control. Now we have Draghi buying already scarce bonds, pushing them farther into negative territory. Guess the central banks ultimately want investors to fund government in a back door form of taxation, lol.

  28. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. April 2016 at 07:47


    Speaking of the FT, Martin Wolf has an excellent piece on Trump.

    Martin Wolf’s article sounds like an endorsement in huge parts.

    Why would he use Augustus as an example!? A man that ended the Roman civil war. A man that saved the Roman Empire. A man that created the Pax Augusta, a very long period of peacefulness and minimal expansion by the Roman military that lasted for over 200 years! A man that laid the foundations of the greatest empire the world has ever seen. An empire that lasted for over 1500 years. A man who is still talked about today in awe.

  29. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. April 2016 at 07:51


    OK, but does Wolf recognize that 60% or more of Republicans DO NOT LIKE TRUMP!!!

    That’s like saying 70% of the German voters have been against Hitler in 1933. That’s just awesome.

    The last poll I saw showed that 50% of Cruz voters for example have Trump as second choice. That’s hardly “not liking” Trump.

  30. Gravatar of Gary Anderson Gary Anderson
    17. April 2016 at 08:05

    Hey, Mr List, if Augustus Caesar could speak to you today from hell he would say warn you that loving the Roman Empire, that God hated, is a big mistake.

    Now we have a neo Roman Empire, with ruins in the Square Mile, stealing from regular folk the world over. It doesn’t necessarily use force to subdue the smaller sovereign nations, but just financial control. You know, like negative bond rates, and slow growth and all those things Market Monetarists rightly hate. It even controls the USA, which is no longer sovereign.

  31. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. April 2016 at 08:06

    ‘It shall be a crime to drink small beer.’

  32. Gravatar of The 'Disappearing' American Middle Class – Cafe Hayek The 'Disappearing' American Middle Class - Cafe Hayek
    17. April 2016 at 09:10

    […] to Michael York for alerting me to this Money Illusion post by Scott Sumner – a post that contains this […]

  33. Gravatar of Chris Hendrix Chris Hendrix
    17. April 2016 at 10:24

    @ssumner I’m pulling my numbers from the census bureau here: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/pdf/cspan_fb_slides.pdf

    I did make the mistake of saying “average” income when it was actually median income. My apologies, but foreign born from Latin America make far less than native born Americans (though ones from India make way more than the native median). So my guess is that the blip where a larger percentage makes very little money than in 1971 is because of the low end of income distribution of the foreign born population. If it is native born explaining that increase, it’s not enough people to explain Trump support. But it is the only income bracket that has increased as a percentage of the population from 1971 that’s below upper middle class income.

  34. Gravatar of Joe Joe
    17. April 2016 at 11:22

    I didn’t see this addressed in the comments or the article, but is it possible that, because we’re counting ‘household’ income rather than ‘personal’ income, an increase in the numbers of income earners living together may have something to do with this finding? I was born in 1954, so am near the middle of the baby boom generation. My income and my wife’s income, combined, look like they track with the growth from middle to upper middle class over time. Seems part of the reason for this finding may also be that people in our generation saw income growth over the time when we were getting raises routinely, and now our combined retirement income lands us in the upper middle range. Today’s workers also do not get raises as often as we did, so the track of their income growth over time will not match ours. I would love to poke around with the data in this study; I used to do cohort data analysis for the Marines, fun work.

  35. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    17. April 2016 at 11:36

    “Bigotry is not a cultural value worth holding on to”

    You are basically saying that you are bigoted against bigots, which is a logical contradiction. That’s another variation on being intolerant of intolerance or excluding the excluders.

    We should be bigoted against rape and murder for example. We should be bigoted against bad and support the good. And that requires a system of morality.

    “Should we regret that “Southern culture” of the 1950s is mostly gone?”

    You are bigoted against 1950’s Southern Culture.

    One strong point in defense of Southern Culture is that they built institutions and cities that were highly desirable and the globalists choose them as prized targets of mass immigration. And to justify this, the immigration supporters have to downplay any value of the target culture that they were destroying.

    “So it’s not just about preserving culture, it’s also about bigotry.”

    Those are the same thing. To have one culture, you must exclude others. To choose red you must exclude blue.

  36. Gravatar of America’s middle-class has been shrinking, but it’s because so many middle-income households have become better off | Drawnlines Politics America’s middle-class has been shrinking, but it’s because so many middle-income households have become better off | Drawnlines Politics
    17. April 2016 at 12:45

    […] his Money Illusion blog, Scott Sumner has a post titled “America’s ‘middle class’ shrinks, as many move into the upper middle class,” where he points out a problem with the bottom chart above from the Financial Times, or at least […]

  37. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    17. April 2016 at 14:31

    “That’s another variation on being intolerant of intolerance or excluding the excluders.”
    Or executing killers or confiscating goods from robbers? And, no, “bigotry” goes not mean what you think it means.
    “One strong point in defense of Southern Culture is that they built institutions and cities that were highly desirable and the globalists choose them as prized targets of mass immigration.”
    Oh, those globalists, destroying the beautiful South’s 1950s Apartheid. As a human being, I am happy for the 1950’s is gone for the same reason I happy Nazi German and Stalin’s Soviet Union are gone. I just wish it were much more gone.

  38. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    17. April 2016 at 15:55

    RN: “Median wages have stagnated for decades.” And the graph above deals in household income. If female labour force participation rises, then household incomes can go up even if median wages are stagnant. (Indeed, depending on the dynamics of labour markets, the first may help cause the last.)

  39. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    17. April 2016 at 16:17

    “Or executing killers or confiscating goods from robbers?”

    To say that killing is always wrong, that would imply that yes, even killing killers is wrong. To say that killing is only wrong in certain circumstances is another moral judgement that isn’t at all contradictory.

    “Oh, those globalists, destroying the beautiful South’s 1950s Apartheid. As a human being, I am happy for the 1950’s is gone for the same reason I happy Nazi German and Stalin’s Soviet Union are gone. I just wish it were much more gone.”

    Japan is openly ethnically segregated. Most nations are like that to some egree. You are free to wish them all gone.

  40. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    17. April 2016 at 16:36

    “To say that killing is only wrong in certain circumstances is another moral judgement that isn’t at all contradictory.”
    The same would be true about bigotry against certain kinds of bigots (if “bigotry” meant what you think it means). “Bigotry” meaning what it means, saying that bigotry is moraly wrong is not bigotry.
    “Japan is openly ethnically segregated. Most nations are like that to some egree. You are free to wish them all gone.”
    So were Americans to abolish slavery and ultimately free American citizens for an Apartheid-like system, I am glad they did. I am as glad for American troops in Little Rock as I am for them in Iwo Jima. Civilization prevailed.

  41. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    17. April 2016 at 16:48

    “Should we regret that “Southern culture” of the 1950s is mostly gone?”

    Race relations were reset. That was not a novelty of the times but had been ongoing since about 1930. Some aspects are still present. Others were salutary but evaporated pari passu with similar features outside the South (e.g. the respect for family life).

  42. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    17. April 2016 at 17:58

    “The same would be true about bigotry”

    Sumner is bigoted against Donald Trump. And now apparently several of you are bigoted against US Southern culture.

    I don’t see your rationale for what distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable bigotry/exclusion/intolerance or group disdain. Feel free to explain.

    “I am as glad for American troops in Little Rock as I am for them in Iwo Jima. Civilization prevailed.”

    Japan exists as basically an ethnic nation state and fiercely excludes others that aren’t Japanese. That’s the heart of apartheid. Arguably, that’s a nation of bigots. Similarly for most countries that don’t invite mass immigration. I don’t think this is wrong. I do think the pressure to welcome other ethnic groups and downplay your own ethnic group is globally pressed almost exclusively upon whites, which I don’t see the justification for.

    I think we all agree that human slavery is morally wrong and we can celebrate its abolishment in most parts of the world and condemn its modern practice.

  43. Gravatar of America’s middle-class has been shrinking, but it’s because so many middle-income households have become better off | RightForAmerica America’s middle-class has been shrinking, but it’s because so many middle-income households have become better off | RightForAmerica
    17. April 2016 at 18:57

    […] his Money Illusion blog, Scott Sumner has a post titled “America’s ‘middle class’ shrinks, as many move into the upper middle class,” where he points out a problem with the bottom chart above from the Financial Times, or at […]

  44. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    18. April 2016 at 00:30

    According to the Heritage Foundation, one needs to look at total compensation: workers’ total compensation, including benefits, not just the cash wages portion of that compensation?

    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/06/workers-compensation-growing-with-their-productivity

  45. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    18. April 2016 at 01:59

    “Sumner is bigoted against Donald Trump. And now apparently several of you are bigoted against US Southern culture.”
    So I guess so peoplke are bigoted against Hitler and Stalin… No, the word doesn’t mean what you think it means.
    “Japan exists as basically an ethnic nation state and fiercely excludes others that aren’t Japanese.”
    It has nothing to do with 50’s Southern Culture and its flaws unless you think Eisenhower is the great responsible for Mexican immigration. The Blacks were already there and were already American citizens.
    “I do think the pressure to welcome other ethnic groups and downplay your own ethnic group is globally pressed almost exclusively upon whites, which I don’t see the justification for.”
    Most people taking the decisions you don’t like are White, not matter how much race-baiting may please you (this is why it is easier blaming Obama’s “war against Whites” than admiting that racist symbols are reviled for being racist symbols).
    “I don’t see your rationale for what distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable bigotry/exclusion/intolerance or group disdain. Feel free to explain.”
    I find racism immoral, and, as much as you may like to sugarcoat it, it was the most striking moral feature of old Southern culture.

    “I think we all agree that human slavery is morally wrong and we can celebrate its abolishment in most parts of the world and condemn its modern practice.”
    As long as slave owners are beaten and forced to let the slaves go (never before it happens– and even then, their symbols must be cherished as symbols of the injustice of being made allow it) and the slaves’ descendants magically disappear or conform to a live of second-class citizenship and intimidation: Old Southern “culture” in a nutshell.

  46. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    18. April 2016 at 03:16

    It seems to me that, regardless of the reality, lots of people are very receptive to the idea that they are being ripped off by evil, shadowy forces. It’s the mainstreaming of 21st century victim-jockeying.

    Simple explanation for the Trump and Sanders phenomena. Judging by the base of support for these two candidates, it seems like white people are disproportionately receptive to this kind of pandering.

  47. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    18. April 2016 at 08:01

    “So I guess so peoplke are bigoted against Hitler and Stalin… No, the word doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

    Yes, people are bigoted against Hitler and Stalin and should be.

    I can intuit your definition of bigotry: Hostility towards a PC protected group like blacks, muslims, or mestizos is bigotry. Hostility towards southern whites or europeans is acceptable and therefore not bigotry. Bigotry for me but not for thee.

    “Most people taking the decisions you don’t like are White, not matter how much race-baiting may please you”

    Of course. The slaves in the African slave trade were overwhelmingly enslaved by rival Africans. The warriors who helped the Spanish defeat the Aztecs were other Amerindians. And those driving anti-white politics are overwhelmingly white. Obama is clearly 100% a creation of white liberals.

    The African slave masters were more concerned with crushing their tribal enemies or growing their own wealth and prosperity by selling slaves rather than aiding completely foreign slave traders. The Amerindian warriors that fought for the Spanish were more concerned with revenge against their tribal enemies or gaining favor and power for themselves than some love for the Spanish.

    The whites pushing anti-white policy are more concerned with boosting their own political careers, their fame and fortune, or crushing their some rival white tribal caste they don’t like, rather than pursuing some genuine moral purpose.

    “I find racism immoral, and, as much as you may like to sugarcoat it, it was the most striking moral feature of old Southern culture.”

    My argument is that all cultures prefer themselves over rival foreign cultures. All racial groups like themselves over others, which is racist.

    America was founded as a white nation, and yes, they liked whites more than others. That’s how pretty much every nation and culture on Earth has worked. Do you think Japan isn’t racist? China? Korea? The Saudis and Gulf States? The Zulus and the African states?

    You say, this racism is the most “striking feature” of the US South. The US South was racist like every other ethnic nation state was racist. The fact that you selectively notice that for Southern White Americans and selectively highlight that as their most “striking feature” says more about your agenda.

    “As long as slave owners are beaten and forced to let the slaves go (never before it happens– and even then, their symbols must be cherished as symbols of the injustice of being made allow it)”

    Amerindians, Africans, Arabs, Japanese, Chinese, Hindis, ancient Greeks and Romans have all extensively practiced slavery. Somehow I’m guessing that you have zero interest in shaming those cultures as evil, and have somehow selectively chosen Southern Whites as the sole culture to represent slavery and be the exclusive target of your shame.

    Despite the fact that other cultures practiced slavery more recently, more brutally, and in larger numbers than Southern Whites, you aren’t fighting those other groups for status, so you selectively pick out stores in history to suit your selfish political narrative.

  48. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. April 2016 at 08:08

    RN, Just to be clear, I gave up my tenure.

  49. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    18. April 2016 at 08:23

    Chris, You said the foreign born make 75% less, and then present me with data showing they make about 22% less. That’s a pretty big error.

    Joe, Yes, it’s partly two income families.

    Massimo, So I’m bigoted against bigots?

  50. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    18. April 2016 at 08:50

    it seems like white people are disproportionately receptive to this kind of pandering.

    Really? Can you explain the political careers of Coleman Young and Marion Berry?

  51. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    18. April 2016 at 08:53

    You say, this racism is the most “striking feature” of the US South. The US South was racist like every other ethnic nation state was racist.

    Other places with racial and ethnic cleavages negotiate a modus vivendi of sorts. The South couldn’t manage one that did not incorporate a great deal of sidebar violence and institutional dysfunction.

  52. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    18. April 2016 at 10:00

    @Art, “Other places with racial and ethnic cleavages negotiate a modus vivendi of sorts. The South couldn’t manage one that did not incorporate a great deal of sidebar violence and institutional dysfunction.”

    Most scenarios of fierce ethno religious rivalry in history are resolved by some combination of mass murder, forced expulsion, or apartheid/segregation/borders.

    Consider 20th century India: When British withdrew, there was mass Hindu vs Muslim genocide. The solution was the Partition, to create segregated apartheid ethno-religious states. The great Partition was followed by, according to Wikipedia, “the largest mass migration in human history”. And since then there has also been “a great deal of sidebar violence and institutional dysfunction”. The popular movie Slumdog Millionaire features a scene depicting more recent history where Hindus indiscriminantly kill Muslims.

    Or consider Algeria, where ethnic Europeans known as Pied-Noirs were famously given the choice of “the suitcase or the coffin” and were forced to flee the country often very quickly at threat of death.

    Or consider Haiti, when Duvalier targeted not whites, but mixed black-white mulattos.

    The Kosovo War of inter-religious genocide was resolved by NATO bombing and a new border providing formal apartheid style state segregation.

    Or consider group rivalry in post-Hussein Iraq. Joe Biden famously recommended segregated sub-governments for Sunni/Shia/Kurd to mitigate mass killings.

    The US southern whites are very uniquely shamed in this, probably because they had land and wealth driving large scale envy.

    @ProfSumner, “So I’m bigoted against bigots?”

    That is quite a disappointing response :)

  53. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    18. April 2016 at 10:08

    Yes, people are bigoted against Hitler and Stalin and should be.”
    No, they aren’t. The word doesn’t mean what you think it means

    “I can intuit your definition of bigotry: Hostility towards a PC protected group like blacks, muslims, or mestizos is bigotry. Hostility towards southern whites or europeans is acceptable and therefore not bigotry. Bigotry for me but not for thee.”
    Oh,poor baby, so hostilized… My definition is the same as Webster’s, and, no, the word “bigotry” still doesn’t mean what you think it does.
    By the way, is wonderful reading complaints about “hostility towards Europeans”… written by the far-right! I still remember the talk about “Old Europe” and Freedom Fries. I still remember all complaints about Europeans being a bunch of Communists that can’t grok America’s Americaness.

    “Most people taking the decisions you don’t like are White, not matter how much race-baiting may please you”
    Those damn Whites and their war on Whites…

    “The whites pushing anti-white policy are more concerned with boosting their own political careers, their fame and fortune, or crushing their some rival white tribal caste they don’t like, rather than pursuing some genuine moral purpose.”
    Summing it up, you are losing the political battle, and Blacks can even vote! — I have heard nice things about Japan’s immigration policies, maybe you should give it a try– the place may be not white enough for your standards, but it is better than the 50’s South.
    “My argument is that all cultures prefer themselves over rival foreign cultures. All racial groups like themselves over others, which is racist.”
    “Oh, those rival compatriots of me I can’t bully any more… Woe is me!”

    “America was founded as a white nation, and yes, they liked whites more than others. That’s how pretty much every nation and culture on Earth has worked. Do you think Japan isn’t racist? China? Korea? The Saudis and Gulf States? The Zulus and the African states?”
    I really love the euphemisms and the moral cowardice. They just “liked” their White fellows a little more. What is the harm, I ask you? It is hard to tell if it is serious or not.

    “You say, this racism is the most “striking feature” of the US South. The US South was racist like every other ethnic nation state was racist. The fact that you selectively notice that for Southern White Americans and selectively highlight that as their most “striking feature” says more about your agenda.”
    It was their most striking MORAL feature. Maybe their cuisine was very good (is it gone, is it part of the “dead Southern culture” people are mourning here?), I don’t know, to be honest, I do not care. Yes, my evil agenda against early 20 th Century South includes allowing Blacks to sit in the front row, allowing Blacks to vote and stop lynching. Yeah, I am this evil and you can’t stop me.

    “Amerindians, Africans, Arabs, Japanese, Chinese, Hindis, ancient Greeks and Romans have all extensively practiced slavery. Somehow I’m guessing that you have zero interest in shaming those cultures as evil, and have somehow selectively chosen Southern Whites as the sole culture to represent slavery and be the exclusive target of your shame.”
    Strangely enough I don’t see that many people mourning the end of Sparta’s slave killings, Rome’s gladiatorial games, India’s sati or Amerindian man-eating ways. Strangely enough it is always about the Old South and race (I mean, the “War on Whites”).

    “Despite the fact that other cultures practiced slavery more recently, more brutally, and in larger numbers than Southern Whites, you aren’t fighting those other groups for status, so you selectively pick out stores in history to suit your selfish political narrative.”
    Yep, as opposed as your selfless adoration of symbols of a regime whose first and foremost reason for existing was to keep slaves enslaved!

  54. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    18. April 2016 at 10:10

    “The US southern whites are very uniquely shamed in this, probably because they had land and wealth driving large scale envy.”
    Don’t forget the Nazis, they are shamed too, and they had wealth. Everyone fights wars, why singling them out if not for “large scale envy”?

  55. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    18. April 2016 at 11:21

    ‘Other places with racial and ethnic cleavages negotiate a modus vivendi of sorts.’

    Like in the former Yugoslavia? Rwanda? India?

  56. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    18. April 2016 at 11:41

    Your point is what, Patrick? That not everyone succeeds? This is a revelation to whom?

    While we’re at it, once partition was complete, India was able to craft a modus vivendi among between the confessions, between language groups, and between castes. Not perfect, will do.

  57. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    18. April 2016 at 11:44

    Most scenarios of fierce ethno religious rivalry in history are resolved by some combination of mass murder, forced expulsion, or apartheid/segregation/borders.

    Most? You’ve catalouged them and counted?

    Consider 20th century India: When British withdrew, there was mass Hindu vs Muslim genocide. The solution was the Partition, to create segregated apartheid ethn

    There was a large death toll from a variety of factors. There was no genocide and their remains a large Muslim minority in India to this day.

  58. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    18. April 2016 at 11:45

    Massimo, the partition of India was over in a year or so. Governance problems in the American South lasted for over a century.

  59. Gravatar of bill bill
    18. April 2016 at 14:47

    I don’t have any special insights on Trump voters, but I do think the popular explanations seem lacking. All the arguments that hold today (to whatever degree) were more true in 2012. I don’t agree with those arguments either way, but has inequality risen meaningfully in the last 4 years? Unemployment is probably down about 35% (from 8% to 5%).
    I think there is a meaningful section of the population that agrees with Trump’s comments on Mexicans and Muslims and feel that their views are just “common sense”. Trump is interesting and charismatic. I pray he loses.

  60. Gravatar of Ryan Vann Ryan Vann
    18. April 2016 at 15:30

    I might be going out on a limb here, but maybe the notion that voters vote according to whichever arbitrary household income class they fall into is not a very complete or useful way of thinking.

    Anyway, MAGA, Trump 2016.

  61. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    18. April 2016 at 16:39

    I don’t think it is just about Muslims and Mexicans (qua Mexicans) and Trump’s talent as entertainer. I think many people agree with most of Trump’s ideas on trade, the twin deficits, Republican bigshots substituting their will for the voters’, the system failing the common American, the obligation of upholding the border, China, America’s allies mooching off America, etc. I don’t like the singer (he is beyond awful), but I like the song.

  62. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    18. April 2016 at 16:43

    @Art,

    “There was a large death toll from a variety of factors. There was no genocide and their remains a large Muslim minority in India to this day.”

    Tutsis and Hutus still both coexist in the nation of Rwanda. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a genocide.

    “Massimo, the partition of India was over in a year or so. Governance problems in the American South lasted for over a century.”

    The partition is large scale physical segregation/apartheid. It wasn’t perfect segregation, there are still large numbers of Muslims in India and small numbers of Hindus in Pakistan, but there is large scale segregation and many people who strongly want more physical segregation can get it and aren’t persecuted by law and forced to integrate.

    The issue in the US South was that the white extremists wanted segregation and the blacks and white sympathizers wanted to deny the right of segregation and impose mandatory integration on all states and cities nation wide and demonize those that resisted.

    Secondly, even with large scale segregation India, there has been much inter-group violence since the partition:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_violence_in_India#Modern_India

    If this is your example of successful inter-group mixing and harmony, it is a terrible one.

  63. Gravatar of Andrew Andrew
    18. April 2016 at 18:24

    Well, there may be other issues here, but it’s certainly the case that this analysis doesn’t take into account the fact that there are many more dual-income housholds today than there were in 1971:

    http://www.mybudget360.com/two-income-trap-dual-income-trap-household-income-middle-class-two-income-trap/

  64. Gravatar of Andrew Andrew
    18. April 2016 at 18:44

    This also made me wonder if the CPI can be used this way fairly. Not having the source info, I can’t confirm, but I assume that some aggregate number was used as a deflator. Is there work out there that shows whether inflation is different for people in different income brackets? Has it changed over time? I would guess that inflation for those in upper brackets has been more strongly impacted than those in lower brackets because the inflation in the things they purchase more of (health care, college tuition) has risen faster than the cost of things that the poor purchase. Are number available?

  65. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. April 2016 at 06:46

    Andrew, My hunch is that inflation has been lower for the poorer classes. Think Walmart vs boutique foods, and Coastal California house prices vs. the Heartland.

    You said:

    “Well, there may be other issues here, but it’s certainly the case that this analysis doesn’t take into account the fact that there are many more dual-income households today than there were in 1971:”

    Dual income families are a choice. Presumably people would not make that choice unless they felt better off. Perhaps labor saving devices, plus household help (nannies), reduce the need for housewives.

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    16. March 2018 at 00:35

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  67. Gravatar of TGIF: Economic Nationalism: Elitism in Populist Clothing – The Libertarian Institute TGIF: Economic Nationalism: Elitism in Populist Clothing - The Libertarian Institute
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