What’s the Matter with the Middle Class?

David Weakliem sent along this paper coauthored with Robert Biggert:

Regional differences in party support have attracted a good deal of attention since the 2000 election. A striking feature of the current pattern is that Democratic support is higher in more affluent states. At the individual level, income is associated with Republican support, but in a recent paper, Gelman et al. (2006) find that this relationship is weaker in more affluent states. In affluent states, people with high and low incomes both tend to vote Democratic; in poorer states, people with low incomes vote Democratic while people with high incomes vote Republican. This paper extends Gelman et al.’s analysis by considering both education and income. We find that the effects of income and college education both vary among states, in a largely independent manner. Variation in the effects of a college education is related to the educational composition of the state: where a college education is more common, it is more strongly associated with support for the Democrats. Overall, regional differences are largest in the middle classes, contrary to the claims of some popular and theoretical accounts. There is some evidence that a pattern of weaker class divisions is associated with more support for the Democrats.
Taking politics out of this for one moment to focus on the financial aspect of this statement, low-income households are a lot more common than people initially realize, there are many families out there that struggle day-to-day with payments and providing for their family, all the while working non-stop to make ends meet. The Government’s Social Security programs are important for these households, as they can provide financial support and backing during these times. For some families, the main provider may die earlier than normal and leave the family in the lurch about what to do. The Social Security survivors benefits and children plan may be the potential avenue for them to go down so that the family are well provided for and are able to pay bills, rent/a mortgage, etc. without the worry of not being equipped to.

Looks interesting to me–we’ll have to look into this some more.

3 thoughts on “What’s the Matter with the Middle Class?

  1. The title of the post refers to the book "What's the Matter With Kansas", the premise of which was that there must be something wrong with working class Kansans because they overwhelmingly support the Republican party, against their own financial interests (at least in the opinion of author Thomas Frank).

    But why not worry about wealthy people who vote Democratic, against their own financial interests? That doesn't seem to bother Mr. Frank. So the real message of his book was that the wealthy are free to vote their consciences, but working class voters are not. If they do not vote the way the Democratic party thinks they should, there must be something deeply wrong with them.

    Perhaps political reeducation camps would help them see the light.

  2. John,

    I think that Thomas Frank might say that the Democrats do not oppose the financial interests of the wealthy, but you'll have to ask him directly…

  3. Well, he does not seem to find it strange that the well-to-do in Kansas vote Republican, only that the working class does.

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