Washington Post - The economic status of white men without a college education is bleaker now than a generation ago, a new study shows.
Although the working-class and college-educated start their adult lives with roughly similar incomes, the earnings for those with college educations begin to soar soon after they enter the workforce, while earnings for those with only a high school education leveled off much earlier, according to a report by Sentier Research, a firm led by former census officials, that analyzed outcomes for white men from 1996 to 2014.
The report also found that the gap in fortunes between the college-educated and those with high school degrees or the equivalent has widened dramatically in the past 20 years. Adjusted for inflation, white working-class men earned more from 1978 to 1996 than they did from 1996 to 2014, while earnings for college graduates rose during that period.
The study focused heavily on white working-class men because their perceived fall in economic stature has been a focus of recent campaign-related news reports, said Gordon Green, one of the study’s authors.
Working-class white men have fueled Donald Trump’s support in both the primary and general-election campaigns. A national Washington Post-ABC News poll before the first presidential debate found that among likely voters, white men without college degrees supported Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 76 percent to 17 percent margin, exceeding Mitt Romney’s 64 percent support among this group in 2012. That compares to an 11-percentage-point margin in Trump’s favor among white men with college degrees and a 12-point margin for Trump among white women without degrees. Clinton led Trump 25 points among white women with college graduates.
Between 1996 and 2014, wages and salary income for those with a high school degree rose by only 19 percent ($32,677 to $38,803) during the first two decades of their careers, while it rose by 133 percent ($40,487 to $94,252) for college graduates.
“This puts an exclamation point on why today many in the white working class feel left out, and particularly men in their 40s and 50s,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They’re doing worse than they even thought they might 20 years ago.”