The Revival of U.S. Populism: How 39 Years of Manufacturing Losses and Educational Gains Reshaped the Electoral Map

53 Pages Posted: 12 May 2023 Last revised: 29 Jun 2023

See all articles by Scott Abrahams

Scott Abrahams

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics

Frank S. Levy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning

Date Written: June 28, 2023

Abstract

The current revival of U.S. right-wing populism reaches back to 1980, a year that marked a broad shift in national production and the demand for labor. In that year, manufacturing employment began a long decline and the wage gap between college and high school graduates began a long expansion. The two trends led to increased concentration of economic activity and increased numbers of college graduates in a small number of local areas, many in coastal states. The result over 39 years was growing geographic alignment of income, educational attainment, and, increasingly, cultural values. The alignment reenforced urban/rural and coastal/interior distinctions and contributed to both the politicization of a four-year college degree and the perception of educated “elites” or “coastal elites” – central parts of today’s populist worldview.

Keywords: manufacturing, polarization, populism, bi-coastal economy, college degree, revival

JEL Classification: N62, O51, R12

Suggested Citation

Abrahams, Scott and Levy, Frank S., The Revival of U.S. Populism: How 39 Years of Manufacturing Losses and Educational Gains Reshaped the Electoral Map (June 28, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4427940 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4427940

Scott Abrahams (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-6308
United States

Frank S. Levy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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