This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The "Sea of Despair" Among White, Working Class Americans

Thanks to Rebecca Clark for pointing to a story in today's Washington Post about a new Brookings Institution report just out by Princeton economists (and demographers) Anne Case and Angus Deaton. They made the news in late 2015 with their discovery of the increasing mortality among white, working class males due especially to opioid overdose. They describe a "sea of despair" in this segment of the population.
The two Princeton professors say the trend affects whites of both sexes and is happening nearly everywhere in the country. Education level is significant: People with a college degree report better health and happiness than those with only some college, who in turn are doing much better than those who never went.
Offering what they call a tentative but “plausible” explanation, they write that less-educated white Americans who struggle in the job market in early adulthood are likely to experience a “cumulative disadvantage” over time, with health and personal problems that often lead to drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide.
“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they conclude.
 The story actually sounds like the academic version of J.D. Vance's very popular memoir titled "Hillbilly Elegy."  It also gets us back to the discussion about the income and wealth inequality in the country that is only getting more exaggerated.

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