Eclipsed by demographics, new polling shows that this voting bloc feels increasingly alienated
Almost no one noticed, but around George W. Bush's reelection in 2004, the nation crossed a demographic milestone.
From Revolutionary days through 2004, a majority of Americans fit two criteria. They were white. And they concluded their education before obtaining a four-year college degree. In the American mosaic, that vast white working class was the largest piece, from the yeoman farmer to the welder on the assembly line. Even as late as the 1990 census, whites without a college degree represented more than three-fifths of adults.
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But as the country grew more diverse and better educated, the white working-class share of the adult population slipped to just under 50 percent in the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community Survey. That number has since fallen below 48 percent.
The demographic eclipse of the white working class is likely an irreversible trend as the United States reconfigures itself yet again as a "world nation" reinvigorated by rising education levels and kaleidoscopic diversity. That emerging America will create opportunities (such as the links that our new immigrants will provide to emerging markets around the globe) and face challenges (including improving high school and college graduation rates for the minority young people who will provide tomorrow's workforce).