Thursday, November 13, 2014

More maps: social mobility (Updated)

We've talked a lot about the characteristics of the nation, particularly in the South that controls much of our discourse. We've looked at a lot of maps.

Here's a map from a New Yorker article showing that the South is particularly lacking social mobility.
In these low mobility areas, it isn’t just black residents who tend to get stuck. Whites, too, exhibit low levels of social mobility. In states like Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, poor white children tend to grow up into poor white adults. Secondly, regardless of race, the level of income inequality itself seems to play an important role in determining levels of social mobility. In places where income is divided very unequally, and poorer groups get only a small slice of the pie, very few people manage to start at the bottom and end up at the top. 
But they still vote against their (economic) interests.

Update  8thday has some excellent remarks in the comments below, chastising me for a certain elitism.  (Go read!)   To which I plead guilty.  But I still think it's irrational to vote consistently against one's own economic interests.


8thday said...

I am curious as to what standard(s) you are applying to come to the conclusion that "they still vote against their interests."

IT said...

The Republican platform is not helpful to many people who nevertheless continue to vote for them., e.g., a preponderance of non-college educated whites who are economically challenged yet who vote Republican.

8thday said...

I think that is a very huge generalization. This same conversation is going on elsewhere on the web and there has been quite an uproar from non-college educated whites and non-whites upset that rich, white people seem to think they know what is in their best interests.

There was a time in my life that I was working poor and lived in a housing project. And I can tell you that the people I lived with, their only issue was to get a job. They were grateful for the social welfare programs sponsored by Democrats, but they didn’t want the charity. They wanted jobs and to be able to support their families. And you can argue the numbers, but the Republicans are perceived as creating jobs. Or at least creating a pro-business climate that is conducive to job creation.

Another point of view brought up was that many people living in the Bible Belt are concerned about the morality of this country. It is a more important issue to some than economics or civil rights. I know I get upset when people assume that I will support any gay, or gay-friendly candidate as if gay issues were my only issue. If I vote against a gay-friendly candidate am I voting against my best interests? Truth is, gay issues are very far down on my priority list.

So again, my question is, what are you basing your conclusion that they vote against their best interests on? What *you* think are in their best interests, or what they perceive to be their best interests to be?

JCF said...

"the Republicans are perceived as creating jobs. Or at least creating a pro-business climate that is conducive to job creation"

Oh, they are ALL about creating China, Vietnam, Guatemala. Anywhere w/o labor (much less environmental!) protections.

8thday, see Thomas Franks' classic "What's the Matter with Kansas?" (Franks is a native son of Kansas, BTW). Franks diagnosed that, in Kansas and elsewhere in the U.S., people would vote not only against their own personal economic interest, but that of the vast majority of vote for someone like-minded on (conservative) social issues. "Nevermind my minimum wage, or even shipping my job to Honduras---as long as he's agin' abortion, I'm voting for him! And impeach that MuSLIME Obama!": THAT is what's the matter w/ Kansas (et al)

[Speaking of abortion: don't get me started on those who want to ban abortion, but believe "Health Care is Not a Right". Was just reading another story about high infant mortality among the poor (esp black poor). No abortion, just let 'em die AFTER they're born???]

8thday said...

It is sad to me when upper income folks just assume that lower income folks want the same thing they have and that “personal economic interests” trump all other issues. With that thinking, the Koch brothers would probably say that I don’t vote in my best interest because certainly I would be financially better off without all those pesky environmental regulations slowing down the market forces. The reality is - I did much better financially under Republican administrations than I did under Democratic ones. And yet I still lean firmly to the left. Am I therefore voting against my best interests? I don’t think so.

JCF - I believe you just made my point for me. There are people for whom the abortion issue is much more important than economic issues. I may not agree with their priorities but that does not invalidate them. Further you seem to criticize people for voting for someone like-minded on social issues. Isn’t that what all people generally do - vote for someone who has the same values they do? Do you criticize feminists for voting for proponents of reproductive rights, or minorities for voting for civil rights supporters? I myself vote more strongly on environmental issues than economic. In fact, by your way of thinking, any wealthy business person who votes Democratic is voting against their best interests. (BTW it was Clinton who signed NAFTA enabling all those jobs to go overseas)

My point is that it is very presumptuous to say that someone is not voting in their best interest if you have no idea what that person’s interest is, or to automatically assume that economics is their only issue. And it is rather condescending to suggest that non-college educated whites don’t seem to know what their doing when they vote just because they don’t vote the way you think they should. (In my opinion the problem lies more with the people who don’t vote than with those who do as they are often more affected by the results of elections.)

Personally I hope that the best interests of the community and not “personal economic interests” are people’s first priority in the voting booth. It is that kind of self serving greed that has gotten us into the straits we are in today.

JCF said...

"It is sad to me when upper income folks just assume"

Assuming that this is directed at me (along w/ the rest of your deeply condescending comment: I made your point? Only if you didn't comprehend mine), you lost me right there.

Me, "upper income"? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! 9 chances out of 10 (perhaps 95 out of 100) my income is lower than yours, 8thday. Start addressing me as the POOR person I am, and then maybe we can have a conversation.

Michael Ejercito said...

There are three reasons whty voters would vote against their self-interest.

- Reality proved to contradict their predictions about how a policy would affect their self-interests. For example, businessmen supported President Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls, which turned out to be a disaster.

- The interests of a particular voter may, at times, be in opposition, so the voter has to choose. A ballot initiative may help one of a particular voter’s interests while harming another. And candidates support a wide variety of policies.

- Perhaps most significantly, many voters put aside their self-interest for the perceived good of the nation. The 14th amendment is an obvious example. If voters had always voted solely for their own self-interest, the 14th Amendment would not have guaranteed equal protection; it would have enshrined racial apartheid and segregation into the U.S. Constitution.

8thday said...

JFC- no, my first paragraph was not directed at you. It was a generic statement expressing my frustration when one group seems to think they know what is best for another group, i.e., when men tell women what is best for their bodies, when insurance company lawyers tell doctors what services their patients should receive, when rich people tell poor people what their best interests are, etc.

And I apologize that I seem to have missed your point entirely.

The main purpose of my comment was to ask the author by what criteria was she determining the "best interests" of a group she does not belong to. And, as nicely summarized by Mr. Ejercito, to point out that people have individual reasons for their vote. Just because someone might not agree with their reasoning, it does not make their reasons wrong, uneducated, or invalid.

IT said...

Based on economic outcomes, the Republicans are not the party of jobs, or of economic expansion. They oppose unions and minimum wage laws. They encourage workers and would-be workers to view The Other with fear. They celebrate environmental damage and dirty water. They cut regulations to allow wall street to gamble with our futures. If we'd had a Republican president, they would have implemented worse "austerity measures" than those that have caused a double-or more dip in the European economies.

Thus, it is in no working person's interest to see them elected, as far as economics goes.

If they had passed job expansion acts e.g., infrastructure, as proposed by the President, there would be more jobs. The economy affects all of us and it is extremely frustrating that the majority of non-college educated whites continue to vote for the Republicans. which by any stretch of the imagination is voting against one's own economic interests.

Elitist? Sure, I'll cop to that, if it is elitist to want all people to do better economically. I'll cop to that since I believe these voting issues reflect misinformation, fear and race-baiting. The Democrats lose non-college education whites. Why is that?

Sure, they may put abortion as a bigger evil than economic disaster, and be hysterical about guns. But I suspect too many buy into the Faux News about the Muslim socialist in the white house, who is BLACK.

Of course the average American wears his ignorance proudly:
Americans think the unemployment rate is 32 percent. It's 5.8 percent.

Americans also think 32 percent of the population are immigrants. Only 13 percent are.

Americans think 24 percent of girls aged 15-19 give birth each year. The actual number is three percent.

On other issues, Americans get the answer not only wrong, but dead wrong.

Percent of people in the U.S. who are Muslim: believed: 15%. Actual: 1%.

Percent of people who are Christian: believed: 56%. Actual: 78%.

They also think that 25% of the population is gay (it's more like 4%)


8thday said...

So, it is your opinion that any working person should always vote to advance their economic interest? Above any and all other interests? And that you know better than they do what their best interests are? You started this discussion by referring to the non-educated whites in the South. If it is the non-educated that fall for the fear and race-baiting, why don’t you see that southern phenomena across the country? Certainly Fox news is broadcast nationwide.

I do not think it is elitist to want all people to do better economically and I am not disagreeing with your assessment of the Republican agenda. (Although Republicans celebrate environmental damage and dirty water? Really? They celebrate it? ) However, I do think it is narrow to assume that all people have the same priorities that you do. Or view their lives through the same lens you do. Or want the life you seem to insist they should want. And it is rather arrogant to dismiss Republican supporters as basically too uneducated to know better.
You say the Democrats lose non-college educated whites? Not where I live.

Americans think the unemployment rate is 32 percent. It's 5.8 percent. Not in Appalachia.

Americans also think 32 percent of the population are immigrants. Only 13 percent are. In New York City some put that figure around 38% In my local elementary school, for over 30% of the children English is a second language.

Americans think 24 percent of girls aged 15-19 give birth each year. The actual number is three percent. Not in Mississippi.

Percent of people who are Christian: believed: 56%. Actual: 78%. Is that people who self identify as Christian or people who actually follow and live the tenets of Christianity? If the second, I would put that percentage much, much lower, possibly single digits.

You can do anything you want with statistics. But people are not national statistics. People are individuals who live in varied circumstances. They react to their personal experience, background, upbringing, religion, education, culture, etc. There is a large evangelical population in the south. Their priorities are different than mine. I may not like it, but I’m sure they don’t like my lifestyle either. (I can’t even remember the number of very well educated people who have told me that my lifestyle is not in the best interests of my children) We are a very diverse nation and priorities differ from region to region, neighborhood to neighborhood, person to person. To make such broad generalizations as the non-educated whites in the south do not vote in their best interest is to believe that you know what their best interest is, better than they do, based on your priorities, not theirs.

The New York Times article concluded:

“the researchers identified four broad factors that appeared to affect income mobility, including the size and dispersion of the local middle class. All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.”

So perhaps those evangelicals pushing for two-parent families and holy roller religion have more influence on upward economic mobility that environmental protections and Wall Street regulations. I think the answers to a lack of southern upward economic mobility are much more complex than your answer of they don’t vote in their best interest.

Lastly, only 62% of Americans can pass the civics test given for US citizenship while 91% of immigrants pass it. Perhaps we should only allow immigrants to vote?

IT said...

Good points.

JCF said...

"is to believe that you know what their best interest is, better than they do, based on your priorities, not theirs"

8thday, that's called having an opinion, then acting on it (activism). And I'm sure you know the joking comparison re opinions: "everybody's got one"---i.e., it's not "elitist" AT ALL.

Could you maybe direct more of your continuing ire at, say, the Koch Brothers, who do their activism w/ BILLIONS of dollars, not an odd blog post?

8thday said...

Yes JCF - people have opinions. Hitler had an opinion about the Jews. Unfortunately, he was also an activist.

It is not ire. It is frustration. Having been on the losing end on other people’s “opinions” - on gay issues, on rape issues, on religious issues, etc. - I AM very frustrated when people form judgmental opinions about other people’s lives and state emphatically that they are not doing what is in their best interest without ever having 1.) asked what those people want or need, 2.) asked why those people are acting as they do (they may have very good reasons) ; or 3.) walked the proverbial mile in their shoes.

While I agree that everyone is entitled to an opinion, I’m not convinced that everyone has the right to publicly judge other people, which I believe this blog post did based on demeaning stereotypes of the non-educated, white, southerner. And I do believe it is elitist when you think your opinion is more valid than anyone else’s - particularly more valid than the opinions of those for whom you are telling how to vote, live, shop, love, worship, etc. I am frustrated with people imposing their judgmental views on others - in politics, in religion, in education, and on social and mass media. Instead of always creating destructive labels and stereotypes to judge others, I wish we could start erasing lines that divide us and work constructively towards the needs of our common humanity.

But that is only my opinion and, as you say, everyone’s got one.

IT said...

Wow, all I write was, "they still vote against their economic interests" and I get labeled a judgmental elitist.

First of all, i didn't state my opinion was more valid than anyone else's. I stated that I have an opinion, which I am entitled to have. And that is, that a large number of working class whites are voting against their economic interests , which they obviously are, given the Republican policies disfavor working class folk ( Republicans oppose Unions, they oppose jobs bills, they oppose infrastructure spending that would create jobs (unless it is for Keystone to benefit their masters), they oppose regulating Wall Street which continues to ensure we are all being pummeled....), and given the data.

You know, data. This map, along with others we have posted, show that there are lots of economic problems in the south as a region: lower mobility, poorer health, greater poverty. I'm sure even our southern friends would agree that there are numerous lingering issues in the South that leads to its economic disadvantage over other regions. Is it a coincidence that these are places where basically whites will not vote for Democrats? where Republican policies hold sway?

You have responded that they may have reasons to elevate other issues than economic ones. Fair enough, and indeed, obviously they are doing so, given how they vote. I opined that this did not make sense to me, to elevate these other issues. This is somehow conflated into "public judging" with negative connotations. Um, it's an opinion. I'm not going to apologize for having an opinion, with which you are free to disagree as indeed you have.

Sure, I speak from a position of some privilege, being a west coast white liberal, with an education and a position in the professional class. But that doest make my opinion invalid. And I'm also woman, an atheist, a scientist, and a lesbian, which certainly gives me experience in the despised and judged classes. And that doesn't make my opinion more valid.

Now you want erase the lines that divide us? That's very kumbaya of you, but give us a suggestion of how to do that. Polarization is our current zeitgeist. How exactly do you erase the divisions with people who have been whipped up into a frenzy of fear? Read the hysterical comments on any news post about the evil muslim socialist Obama (with a few offensive words thrown in) and tell me how we should do that.

8thday said...

You posted this map, originally published by the New York Times, and stated that non-educated, white southerners still vote against their interests. However, the Times had included many reasonable theories for this lack of social mobility (none of which had anything to do with the Republican party) but you choose to include NONE of them in your piece - only your own conclusion, which was one sentence with no substantiating data. After some questioning you said that your statement was based on your opinion about the impact of Republican economic policies.

In my state it has been the policies of the Democrats - higher taxes, tough environmental regulations and unions - that have driven hundreds of businesses and thousands and thousands of jobs to the south. It is only by mimicking Republican policies (new businesses pay no taxes and are exempt from many government regulations) that our Governor is beginning to lure them back.

Your theory also seems to run contradictory to the fact that the south traditionally voted Democratic for many generations and STILL did not fare well economically. You know, data.

I do not argue with you that the south has many problems as a region. But to take a very complex issue and reduce it to a simplistic proclamation - “they don’t vote in their own best interest” - based on nothing but your own personal bias and ignoring all other reasonable explanations? Isn’t that what people criticize Fox news for doing?

But I have spent way more time on this dialogue than I should. So I will try to simply answer your question and then leave you alone.

I am a certified mediation counselor and I can tell you that the first thing that needs to be addressed when people come to the table to resolve problems is that people’s preconceived notions and hostilities need to be neutralized. How is that done?

Paraphrasing Jeremy Hooper - talking *with* each other rather than *about* each other.

Eliminate inflammatory speech and erroneous comments. (The Republicans celebrate dirty water, would be an example)

Eliminate stereotypes, labels and presumptions.

Ask questions without predetermining the answer.

Actually listen to the answer.

You are right. This country is becoming more and more polarized, to a point I find frightening. It has become much easier for people to throw stones from the safety of their computer than to actually do the hard work of understanding the other. And yes, this has been exasperated by social media. But quite frankly, I believe that many people prefer the stone throwing than coming to the table to work toward peaceful solutions. So you can call my vision kumbaya (shared by Mandela and King and Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi and many others so I take it as a compliment) and continue your tirades against the Republicans, the Pope, Catholics, and whoever else you object to. In many ways I share your exasperation. But it doesn’t get us any closer to reducing the hate, understanding each other or finding answers.

My opinion.

IT said...

Wow, we haven't had a rip-roarin' discussion in the comments here at FoJ for years.

Thank you, 8th day, for engaging with passion.

But you told me what you believe we need to do (come to the table, listen, engage).

But you did not tell me how we are to accomplish that, in concrete rather than abstract terms.

Especially important as all hell is going to break loose in DC tonight with the immigration speech.

Kevin K said...

The Devil is in the details. The only way to do that is for people to participate beyond their insular "communities" which often turn out to be echo chambers. Progressives need to rub shoulders with the "unwashed" and conservatives need to associate with the "heathens". This requires us to look at the organizations, clubs, groups and churches in our communities.

JCF said...

In my state it has been the policies of the Democrats - higher taxes, tough environmental regulations and unions - that have driven hundreds of businesses and thousands and thousands of jobs to the south.


No, it had nothing to do w/ "Screw the People's Govt, Screw the Environment, DESTROY Unions" drive for PROFIT which propelled these fine, unfettered capitalists to the "we still know where the bodies are buried" States. * Just those cruel, cruel "policies of the Democrats"! :-0

You couldn't shock me more, 8thday.

"I am a certified mediation counselor"

No wait...

* I came across this quite by accident today. "Southern Pride!" :-X