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I don't know if this is an appropriate subject for a diary, but I wanted to draw attention to a link that Nate Roberts included in another diary and I think is likely to be overlooked.

For a long time I, like many other liberals, accepted the meme that the white working class voted against their interests, and the reason they did so was due to racism. Sure, I personally knew a few poor white people who voted Democratic, but. . .  they're my friends! Of course they're smarter than average! This was a bit of recieved wisdom that I never bothered to question until the Tea Party became the face of angry white folks.

I saw the pictures of the Tea Baggers (I love this phrase. It makes me think of Martha Plimpton.) and they did not look poor to me. Crass and without class, perhaps. Working class, no. Yet, at least at first, they were described as representing the elusive angry white working class. I began to have my doubts. First of all, I knew that poor people voted in larger numbers for Democrats than rich people did. Could non-whites be making the entire difference? Those doubts increased when it was reported that Tea Baggers "have higher than average incomes."

This leads me to ask a very important question that is the title of the diary, "Who is working class?" If we're going to make pronouncements and advocate policies concerning the working class, we ought to have some idea who they are.

John Quiggen put up a post on Crooked Timber not long ago that explored the question of how it's possible that "a substantial proportion of the working class votes for the more conservative/rightwing party" while "higher incomes are correlated with voting for the conservative/rightwing party." He also adds, "I’ve read that the average income of the US working class is the same as that of the population as a whole, which goes against the whole idea of “working class” as I understand it."

All became clear(or, at least, clearer) when I discovered that US political discussion uses two very different (though correlated) concepts of “working class”. The first is the more or less standard one – people who depend on wage labor (normally in manual or low-status service occupations) for their income. The second, specific to the US, and standard in most political polling, is “people without a 4-year college degree”, a class which includes such horny-handed sons and daughters of toil as Bill Gates and Paris Hilton. More prosaically, it includes lots of small business owners, and (since college graduation rates were rising until relative recently), over-represents the old.
The post is not long and I highly recommend it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I consider myself working class. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have a BA (to this day, it's worth the $100 a month on my salary that it was when it was new), and my current job title is Administrative Coordinator.  

    Officially, I suppose I qualify as middle-class, but I've worked for my living since I was 20, with 6 months off after one baby and 8 months after the other.  

    And I have often supported several people and a car on much less than I'm earning now, making just a few dollars a month too much to qualify for any type of assistance.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:03:48 AM PDT

  •  you might be interested in this article (1+ / 0-)
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    Which says that the easiest way for polsters to define blue collar is by education but that answer isn't always correct.

    The authors postulate that about half of white guys could be construed as blue collar.

    I have to say I'm very happy the leader of my party (my president) don't look at blue collar people the way most of DK seems to.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:26:40 AM PDT

  •  Answer: (0+ / 0-)

    Everyone not living off their investment income.

    Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

    by EthrDemon on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 12:09:49 PM PDT

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