Workers with less than a bachelor’s degree will be majority-minority by 2032, 11 years ahead of the general population
Much has been made of the support presumptive Republican presidential nomineeDonald Trump has gotten from “angry white men” in 2016: working-class white, male voters in industrial states whose livelihoods were threatened by trade and technology.
A new report shows how quickly they’re shrinking as a group. The working class — defined as people in the workforce with less than a bachelor’s degree — will soon be “majority-minority,” or majority people of color, well ahead of when the general population crosses over. The transition to a majority-minority working class will happen in 2032, 11 years ahead of when America’s population at large becomes mostly nonwhite.
Economist Valerie Wilson of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute reached these findings using historical patterns for educational attainment and long-term projections on the workforce. Because African-Americans and Latinos currently have lower educational attainment, their growing share of the population will shift the makeup of the working class even more rapidly.
“The working class is now already more diverse than is perceived in terms of the images you see of the disgruntled working-class white male, but that population is going to become even more diverse in the future,” Ms. Wilson said.
As of 2013, two-thirds of working Americans were working class, and the working class was 62.6% white. As overall educational attainment continues to climb, that share of the working population will fall to 57.8% by the 2032, the year it becomes majority-minority.
Ms. Wilson recommends policy prescriptions that broadly support the working class, like higher minimum wages and targeting full employment. But she also said attention should be focused on issues that disproportionately affect people of color, such as criminal-justice reform, noting that racial disparities often transcend class. For example, there are racial wage gaps between black workers and white workers at every level of the economic ladder, she said, citing forthcoming research. If racial inequities persist in educational attainment, employment and wages, that has implications for the strength of the U.S. economy, especially as workers of color grow as a share of the working class and the population at large.
“You either hear about the class-based policies or the race-based policies and don’t really get the message that those things are connected, because we have a changing demographic,” she said.