Growing Diversity and Status Threat

Table of Contents

  1. Growing Diversity
  2. Status Threat
  3. Race and Ethnicity on the Census
    1. Census race categories increasingly fail to reflect how people see themselves WaPo
    2. This Is How The White Population Is Actually Changing Based On New Census Data NPR
Growing Diversity
  • Census release shows America is more diverse and more multiracial than ever CNN
  • Census data shows the number of White people in the U.S. fell for first time since 1790, Aug 12, 2021 WaPo
    • The report marks the first time the absolute number of people who identify as White alone has shrunk since a census started being taken in 1790. The number of people identifying as non-Hispanic White and no other race dropped by 5.1 million people, to 191.7 million, a decrease of 2.6 percent.
    • The country also passed two more milestones on its way to becoming a majority-minority society in the coming decades:
      • For the first time, the portion of White people dipped below 60 percent, slipping from 63.7 percent in 2010 to 57.8 percent in 2020.
        • [Not Hispanic and White Alone]
      • The majority of the under-18 population are people of color, at 52.7 percent.
    • William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said that the diversification of the nation is projected to continue, with Whites falling below 50 percent nationally around 2045, at which point there will be no racial majority in the country. 
    • The shifts signal what Frey calls a “cultural generation gap,” with older generations that are much Whiter than younger ones. Racial minorities will drive all the growth in the U.S. labor force as White baby boomers retire and will make the difference between growth and decline in rural and suburban areas. 
  • A rise in Hispanic and Asian population fuels U.S. growth, census reports. Aug 12, 2021 NYT
    • Overall population growth slowed dramatically over the past decade. The growth that did occur — an increase of about 23 million people — was made up entirely of people who identified themselves as Hispanic, Asian, Black and more than one race, according to the data, the first racial and ethnic breakdown from the 2020 census.
    • The white population in the United States, for the first time on record, declined over the course of the decade. That drop was driven in part by the aging of the white population and a sharp drop in the birthrate.
    • The single biggest increase was among people who identified as more than one race, a category that first appeared on census forms 20 years ago, and now is the fastest growing racial and ethnic category. That population more than doubled.
    • The census showed a continued shift in population away from the old industrial belt — stretching from New York to Illinois — and toward the Sun Belt states like Florida, North Carolina and Texas, a change that will have an effect on the political map.
    • The nation has been growing more diverse for decades, but recently the pace has accelerated. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for
      • 46 percent of population growth in the 1970s
      • 36 percent in the 1980s
      • 20 percent in the 1990s
      • 8 percent of the growth in the first decade of this century
      • Zero percent in the 2010s.
    • “This is a pivotal moment for the country in terms of its diversity,” said William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Part of our population is aging and slow growing. To counter that, we have people of color who are younger and growing more rapidly. They are helping to propel us further into a century where diversity is going to be the signature of our demography.”
  • Americans kept migrating to cities, leaving rural areas depopulated. Aug 12, 2021 NYT
    • One of the starkest themes in the data the Census Bureau released on Thursday was the steady growth of urban areas at the expense of vast, rural swaths of the country.
    • Population numbers fell in more than half of the nation’s counties, even as the country’s total population increased 7.4 percent over the last decade, reaching 331.4 million.
Status Threat
  • Why the GOP can’t quit Trump, Christopher Sebastian Parker and Rachel M. Blum, March 2, 2021 WaPo
    • Authors
      • Parker is professor of political science at the University of Washington.
      • Blum is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma.
    • The Republican Party appears to be at war with itself, split between ex-president Donald Trump’s supporters and establishment Republicans. Is the apparent fissure in the GOP real or imagined?
    • For answers, we studied the opinions of supporters of the “Make America Great Again” movement. The MAGA movement, often viewed as a divisive force in American politics, includes roughly half of Republican primary voters. Its adherents are Trump’s most committed supporters. Fear of electoral reprisal from the MAGA “base” helps explain why so few Republicans dare cross Trump, even after the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
    • Our panel study examines the characteristics of MAGA supporters, their beliefs, and what motivates them. We find that at least half of MAGA supporters tend to be White, Christian, male, over 65 years of age, retired, and earn at least $50,000 a year. Further, roughly one-third have at least a college degree. Our data suggests their commitment to Trump is unshakable, motivated by the perception of a threat to their status as the culturally dominant group.
    • What explains MAGA supporters’ commitment to Trump and his conspiratorial and racist views? The answer is “status threat,” or the belief that one’s way of life or status is undermined by social and cultural change. As we’ve shown elsewhere, those who are attracted to reactionary movements like MAGA are often motivated by anxiety about possible cultural dispossession — seeing their social and cultural dominance eclipsed by other groups.
    • MAGA supporters see Trump as their protector, the barrier between themselves and communities of color, feminists, and immigrants from what Trump called “shithole” countries, whom they perceive as threats. 
    • MAGA nation’s loyalty to Trump and commitment to a Trump-led GOP makes it hard for the Republican Party to break away from the former president. 
    • Understanding why MAGA, also known as the Republican base, supports Trump, reveals why the GOP can’t break away from him: They are intensely loyal to Trump, motivated by status threat, and convert their anxiety and commitment into votes. If any Republican tries to disavow Trump, they will face a primary challenge. Even those sure they would survive such a primary know that their political ambitions will need Trump’s blessing.
  • How Far Are Republicans Willing to Go? They’re Already Gone. Thomas Edsall, June 9, 2021 NYT
    • Virginia Gray, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, argued in an email that for Republicans, “the strongest factors are racial animosity, fear of becoming a white minority and the growth of white identity.”   She noted that Tucker Carlson of Fox News articulated Republican anxiety during his show on April 8:
      • “In a democracy, one person equals one vote. If you change the population, you dilute the political power of the people who live there. So every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”
    • Trump, Carlson and their allies in the Republican Party, Gray continued, see politics as a zero-sum game: as the U.S. becomes a majority-minority nation, white voters will constitute a smaller portion of the voting electorate. So in order to win, the party of whites must use every means at its disposal to restrict the voting electorate to “their people.” Because a multiracial democracy is so threatening, Trump supporters will only fight harder in the next election.
  • How Far Are Republicans Willing to Go? They’re Already Gone. Thomas Edsall, June 9, 2021 NYT
    • A detailed Brookings study, America’s electoral future: The coming generational transformation, by Rob Griffin, Ruy Teixeira and William Frey, argues that Republicans have reason to fear the future:
      • “Millennials and Generation Z appear to be far more Democratic leaning than their predecessors were at the same age. Even if today’s youngest generations do grow more conservative as they age, it’s not at all clear they would end up as conservative as older generations are today.”
    • In addition, the three authors write, “America’s youngest generations are more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations.”
    • As a result, Griffin, Teixeira and Frey contend, the underlying demographic changes our country is likely to experience over the next several elections generally favor the Democratic Party. The projected growth of groups by race, age, education, gender and state tends to be more robust among Democratic-leaning groups, creating a consistent and growing headwind for the Republican Party.
    • From 2020 to 2036, the authors project that the percentage of eligible voters who identify as nonwhite in Texas will grow from 50 to 60 percent, in Georgia from 43 to 50 percent, in Arizona from 38 to 48 percent.
    • As these percentages grow, Republicans will be under constant pressure to enact state legislation to further restrict registration and voting. The question will become: How far are they willing to go?
  • Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump, Daniel Cox, Rachel Lienesch, Robert P. Jones, 5/9/2017 PRRI
    • New analysis by PRRI and The Atlantic, based on surveys conducted before and after the 2016 election, developed a model to test a variety of potential factors influencing support for Trump among white working-class voters. The model identifies five significant independent predictors of support for Trump among white working-class voters. No other factors were significant at conventional levels.
    • Overall, the model demonstrates that besides partisanship, fears about immigrants and cultural displacement were more powerful factors than economic concerns in predicting support for Trump among white working-class voters. Moreover, the effects of economic concerns were complex—with economic fatalism predicting support for Trump, but economic hardship predicting support for Clinton.
    • Identification with the Republican Party. Identifying as Republican, not surprisingly, was strongly predictive of Trump support. White working-class voters who identified as Republican were 11 times more likely to support Trump than those who did not identify as Republican. No other demographic attribute was significant.
    • Fears about cultural displacement. White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.
    • Support for deporting immigrants living in the country illegally. White working-class voters who favored deporting immigrants living in the country illegally were 3.3 times more likely to express a preference for Trump than those who did not.
    • Economic fatalism. White working-class voters who said that college education is a gamble were almost twice as likely to express a preference for Trump as those who said it was an important investment in the future.
    • Economic hardship. Notably, while only marginally significant at conventional levels (P < 0.1), being in fair or poor financial shape actually predicted support for Hillary Clinton among white working-class Americans, rather than support for Donald Trump. Those who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were 1.7 times more likely to support Clinton, compared to those who were in better financial shape.
  • Our constitutional crisis is already here, Robert Kagan, WaPo
    • Passions Animating the Trump Movement
      • In fact, the passions that animate the Trump movement are as old as the republic and have found a home in both parties at one time or another.
      • Suspicion of and hostility toward the federal government; racial hatred and fear; a concern that modern, secular society undermines religion and traditional morality; economic anxiety in an age of rapid technological change; class tensions, with subtle condescension on one side and resentment on the other; distrust of the broader world, especially Europe, and its insidious influence in subverting American freedom — such views and attitudes have been part of the fabric of U.S. politics since the anti-Federalists, the Whiskey Rebellion and Thomas Jefferson.
    • Bond with Trump
      • It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements.
      • But their bond with Trump has little to do with economics or other material concerns. They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word, unable to challenge the reigning liberal hegemony. They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity.
      • In his professed victimization by the media and the “elites,” his followers see their own victimization. That is why attacks on Trump by the elites only strengthen his bond with his followers.
Race and Ethnicity on the Census
  • You can check more than one box on the Census race question.
  • There’s also the Hispanic origin question.
  • Who’s White according to the census?
  • A common interpretation is that a person is White if they check No to the Hispanic origin question and checked only the White box on the race question. This is the basis for saying that Whites slipped from 63.7 percent in 2010 to 57.8 percent in 2020.
  • However, this interpretation is arguably too narrow because many think of themselves as multiracial white.
    • No precise meaning
      • At no point, from the first rudimentary attempts at classifying human populations in the 17th and 18th centuries to the present day, have scientists agreed on the number of races of humankind, the features to be used in the identification of races, or the meaning of race itself. Experts have suggested a range of different races varying from 3 to more than 60, based on what they have considered distinctive differences in physical characteristics alone (these include hair type, head shape, skin colour, height, and so on). The lack of concurrence on the meaning and identification of races continued into the 21st century, and contemporary scientists are no closer to agreement than their forebears. Thus, race has never in the history of its use had a precise meaning.
    • No biological validity
      • Although most people continue to think of races as physically distinct populations, scientific advances in the 20th century demonstrated that human physical variations do not fit a “racial” model. Instead, human physical variations tend to overlap.
      • Because of the overlapping of traits that bear no relationship to one another (such as skin color and hair texture) and the inability of scientists to cluster peoples into discrete racial packages, modern researchers have concluded that the concept of race has no biological validity.
    • Ethnicity
      • Ethnicity, which relates to culturally contingent features, characterizes all human groups. It refers to a sense of identity and membership in a group that shares common language, cultural traits (values, beliefs, religion, food habits, customs, etc.), and a sense of a common history. All humans are members of some cultural (ethnic) group, sometimes more than one. Most such groups feel—to varying degrees of intensity—that their way of life, their foods, dress, habits, beliefs, values, and so forth, are superior to those of other groups.
Census race categories increasingly fail to reflect how people see themselves WaPo
  • Some Other Race
    • For Hispanics, identifying themselves on the census questionnaire can be bewildering.
      • How do you answer the race question if you’re Hispanic?
        • White = Checked and Some Other Race = Unchecked
          • Because you’ve answer YES to the Hispanic origin question
        • White = Unchecked and Some Other Race = Checked / Hispanic
        • White = Checked and Some Other Race = Checked / Hispanic
    • In 2020, over 15 percent of all respondents marked Some Other Race, either alone or in combination with another race; the vast majority of them were Hispanic. 
    • 8.4 percent marked Some Other Race and no other box.
  • Rejected Proposal for Combined Question
    • An interagency task force spent several years devising a new format that collapsed race and ethnicity into one question. 
    • According to John Thompson, who directed the Census Bureau until 2017, “The political leadership at OMB basically didn’t want to collect accurate race and ethnicity data … so it died at OMB, and the Census Bureau had to move on, and they couldn’t implement what all had agreed was the best way.
This Is How The White Population Is Actually Changing Based On New Census Data NPR
  • Common interpretation of White
    • Some recent analysis of the new census data, however, has homed in on a more narrowly defined group with falling numbers — people who only marked the “White” box for the race question and did not identify as Hispanic or Latino (which is not a racial category according to federal standards).
    • For decades in the news media, a population the bureau recently described as “White alone non-Hispanic” has become synonymous with the white population of the United States. But the country’s ever-changing ideas about race and ethnicity are continuing to push academics, policymakers and other members of the public to reassess whiteness and the census data used to redraw voting maps, combat racial discrimination, guide federal funding and inform research and planning for the next 10 years.
  • Census Bureau Definition
    • The Census Bureau has to follow an official definition of “white” that is set by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. It says anyone with “origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa” should be categorized as white in federal government data about race.
    • Still, census data is not necessarily a reflection of every U.S. resident’s family tree. This information is produced through how people report their racial identities themselves, and they may have different concepts of who is “white,” which can be influenced by notions of white privilege, skin tone and other complicated factors.
  • An increasingly multiracial U.S. complicates who is considered “white”
    • “There are a lot of complications involved with how we categorize race, including the white population,” says Jennifer Richeson, a psychologist at Yale University who studies racial identity. “Why are many of us so interested in watching what’s happening with this specific group of non-Hispanic white Americans? It’s puzzling to me that we are so concerned about it.”
    • Richard Alba, a sociologist at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York who has advised the bureau about statistics on racial and ethnic diversity, argues for a broad definition of whiteness when analyzing census data, especially as more children are born to one parent who identifies as white and another who does not.
    • “Sometimes they think of themselves as mixed. Sometimes they think of themselves as members of a single group, and often that group is white,” says Alba, who has written about how the descendants of Catholic, Jewish and Eastern Orthodox immigrants from Europe assimilated into mainstream U.S. society. “I don’t see how we can claim that white is a single thing at this point. Perhaps we should say white represents a spectrum more than it does a well-defined group.”
    • Nowadays, some people who once checked off only the “White” box on forms may feel “more comfortable giving a more nuanced answer” about their origins, says Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at La Salle University who studies white identity, because “there’ll be very little social cost to it.”
    • “For whites, there’s almost something that I think is attractive, almost chic in some ways where you can claim, ‘Well, yeah, I’m part Native American. Yeah, I’m part Asian,’ ” says Gallagher, who adds that for many, whiteness is still defined by proximity to Blackness. “What trumps everything typically is the darkness of your skin color. Racism is still very much alive and well.”
  • Comparing race data over time can be like comparing “apples and oranges”
    • Some data crunchers have used historic terms to describe the 2.6% drop in what the bureau has called the “non-Hispanic white alone” population (that is, people who checked off only the “White” box and did not identify as Hispanic or Latino) — the supposed “first” time this group has not grown in the more than two centuries since the country’s original count.
    • But comparing race data from the 2020 census with data from earlier counts can be a bit like comparing “apples and oranges,” notes Ann Morning, a sociologist and demographer at New York University who has served on one of the bureau’s committees of outside advisers.
    • “It’s true that ‘White’ is the single race category that has always been with us since our very first census in 1790. But in fact, other ways in which we have shaped the census actually have an effect on that white count,” Morning says. “It’s not just a straightforward line over time in measuring that population.”
    • The way the census has asked about race and ethnicity has shifted decade to decade. Until 1960, every person’s racial identity for the U.S. census was determined by a government worker. In 1970, the bureau asked a sample of households about “Mexican,” “Puerto Rican,” “Cuban,” “Central or South American” and “Other Spanish” origins before asking the entire country about their Hispanic origins beginning with the 1980 census.
    • The bureau has warned data users that because of changes to how the race question was asked, as well as how responses were processed and categorized, for the 2020 count, comparisons with 2010 numbers “should be made with caution.”
    • There could be “unexpected differences,” the bureau has said, that may not necessarily be just the result of demographic shifts. Some of the bureau’s changes for the 2020 census may have increased the number of people recorded as identifying with the “White” category and at least one of the other racial categories. Last year’s census, like the 2010 count, may have also overcounted the “non-Hispanic white alone” population.