Less-educated whites face despair, death

Warning to middle-aged white folks with little education:  You’re doomed to die early in a life of despair and addiction.

That’s the warning from those who study such things and issue dire reports.

Angus Deaton and Anne Case, a pair of economists from Princeton, say palefaces who shun getting an education attempting, and failing, to enter a functioning labor market nowadays face dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other problems.

A couple of years ago, the pair reported that the death rate of midlife non-Hispanic whites had risen far more than blacks, Hispanics and Europeans.

Among white men with a high school education or less, the death rate rose 130 percent over other groups and 115 percent among women.

“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 reported in 2015.

Deaton and Case call such folks trapped in a “sea of despair” in America.

Those who add to the death toll in this country often die from drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide.

Concludes Deaton:

You used to be able to get a really good job with a high school diploma. A job with on-the-job training, a job with benefits. You could expect to move up.

People may want to soothe the beast. They may do that with alcohol, they may do that with drugs, they may do that with food.

Your family life has fallen apart, you don’t know your kids anymore, all the things you expected when you started out your life just haven’t happened at all.

Adriana Lleras-Muney, a University of California at Los Angeles economics professor, says there is more study needed on what she calls the “facts behind” the Princeton study.

“It’s just a background of continuous decline. You’re worse off than your parents,” Lleras-Muney, who is from Columbia, tells The Washington Post. “Whereas for Hispanics, or immigrants like myself, or blacks, yes, circumstances are bad, but they’ve been getting better.”

Economics professor David Cutler sees an irony in the report because middle-aged white men without college degrees or, in many cases, even a high school diploma, formed the base of American voters who helped elect Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States and now face serious threats from attempts to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Cutler says replacing the current act with the one proposed by Republicans and President Trump eliminates that base from getting health insurance.

“Treat the fever by causing an event bigger fever,” he says.  He also calls it “bleeding a sick patient.”

Floyd County, and much of Southwestern Virginia, contains a high population of less educated whites than many other areas of the country and we saw the vote pattern duplicated in the 2016 Presidential election.  Yet areas with high college educated voters like Blacksburg and Radford voted less for Trump.  The Commonwealth of Virginia, which is now more urban than rural when it comes to population, voted more for Trump’s opponent.

So did the nation as a whole, giving Trump opponent Hillary Clinton more than three million more votes than him but the electoral college demographics favored the blusterous “reality TV host.”

Case and Deaton call the rising death toll among middle-aged whites an epidemic.

Which may well explain the high level of anger we see now among less-educated whites who struggle to survive. Anger drives hate and hate is also on the rise in America.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse