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America sings the postindustrial blues

5 22 20

Ever since President Trump’s election, a cottage industry of politicians, journalists, scholars and commentators has sought to understand what motivates Trump supporters. Theories have ranged from globalization to a rebellion against Washington elitism to racism. But the true cause may have been overlooked: the “postindustrial society.”

It has imposed on the economy a wage structure that systematically generates inequality between the majority of Americans and the upper middle class, roughly defined as the top 20 percent with a threshold income of a bit more than $100,000. We have two new studies that demonstrate this, though neither explicitly uses the term postindustrial society.

Consider. From 1960 to 2014, the annual earnings, corrected for inflation, of men who are professionals and business executives rose 70 percent, reports Stephen Rose in a study for Third Way, a slightly left-of-center think tank. By contrast, annual earnings for male factory workers rose only 18 percent over the same period.

Not only are low-skilled white men lagging behind the advances of upper-middle-class white men, says Rose, but they may also be surpassed by “many more women and racial minorities” who qualify for managerial and professional jobs that were once off-limits. Since 1960, “the white male working class has exhibited a dramatic fall in status.”

Just so,........

© Washington Post