Americans are convinced by economic report claiming minorities are taking jobs away from whites
2016/12/19 Leave a comment
Good example of how baselines and charting can mislead, as well as feeding popular prejudices:
To start, the report asserts that of the more than 5 million jobs added since November 2007, the pre-recession employment peak, more than half went to Hispanics — a stunning proportion that accounts for four times their share of the labor force that year.Economic Cycle Research Institute
Disproportionately large gains also occurred among black and Asian workers, according to the report. African Americans accounted for 25 per cent of the job gains, more than double their share of the labour force. Asians accounted for nearly 30 per cent of the gains, about six times their share of the labour force.But white workers fell behind, the report said. Whites had fewer jobs than they did nine years ago — even though they made up more than 80 per cent of the labour force in 2007.
These stunning statistics were enough to drive many, including the report’s author, to conclude that white economic despair led to Donald Trump’s election victory.
“The shock of the election spoke to a kind of disconnect,” said Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, in an interview with the Post. “There is a huge cohort — you can call it whites, people in rural areas — who weren’t feeling the 5 percent unemployment rate. They weren’t feeling the stock market at new highs. They weren’t feeling a recovery that’s seven, eight years old.”
But other economists pounced on the report after the New York Times columnist, Eduardo Porter, highlighted it in his column. The statistics Porter cited paint too simplistic of a picture, they argued.Economic Cycle Research Institute
“The implication is there are hundreds of thousands of white people who lost their jobs to blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Yet if you look at the unemployment rate differentials by race, you don’t see a huge increase in the white unemployment rate,” said Jonathan Rothwell, a Gallup economist.
The recession and its aftermath were not dramatically worse for white workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for whites — 4.6 per cent in 2015 — is lower than all racial and ethnic groups except Asians. In comparison, 9.6 per cent of African Americans, 6.6 per cent of Hispanics, and 3.8 per cent of Asians are unemployed.
And a far higher proportion of whites are employed than blacks; 59.9 per cent of the white labour force are employed compared to 55.7 per cent of the black labour force. The proportions of Hispanics and Asians who have jobs are just slightly higher than for whites — not nearly the alarming portrait painted by the Economic Cycle Research Institute.
All demographic groups experienced declining rates of employment between 2007 and 2015, but white workers’ plight is not as dramatic as ECRI implies.
“I don’t see any evidence that whites were disproportionately harmed over the last nine years,” Rothwell said. “The main concern I have with the [ECRI] chart is it’s potentially grossly misleading in terms of how it could be interpreted.”Economic Cycle Research Institute
Rothwell and other economists pointed out that as the country becomes more diverse due to immigration and higher birth rates among minority groups, it only follows that those same groups would make gains in employment along with population.
“One would expect to see jobs shifting. Just as we see more kids going to public schools who are non-white, we would expect to see more adults in the labour force who are non-white, and it’s not any cause for concern,” Rothwell said.
Whites are also aging, and as Baby Boomers retire, the size of the white labor force remains relatively stagnant. The ECRI analysis compares a demographic group’s share of the labor force at a single point in time with the group’s share of job gains since 2007. In doing so, it overlooks the changes in the sizes of the underlying populations over time, said Alan Berube, deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.