Trump's election and the “white working class”

What we missed

by Christine J. Walley

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In the buildup to the extraordinarily divisive 2016 US presidential election, much discussion focused on an often-ignored group—the “white working class,” which was identified early on as a key constituency of Donald Trump. During the election, many pollsters and journalists defined working class as a group comprising people who lack a four-year college degree. This definition, however, lumps together an extraordinarily broad range of groups with diverse histories as well as social and class positionings, contributing to confused media discussion around class during the election. Unpacking what this definition masks is critical to understanding the changing class landscape of the United States and to promoting public discussion of the causes of growing inequality and its socially and politically destabilizing effects.