Democracy Dies in Darkness

Wonkblog | Analysis

The ‘war on whites’ is a myth — and an ugly one

August 14, 2017 at 2:33 PM

People listen to a speech before pledging allegiance to the United States as they receive citizenship at a naturalization ceremony for immigrants in Los Angeles in February. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Many of those who descended on Charlottesville to attend the white nationalist rally this weekend believe there is a “war on whites” in the United States today. They believe it so deeply that they are willing, in 2017, to carry Nazi flags and chant Nazi slogans. Some were ready to act violently against those who disagreed. One man faces murder charges after driving his vehicle through a crowd of counterprotesters.

The view that white people face broad discrimination is not limited to groups like the ones espousing Nazi propaganda in Charlottesville over the weekend.

Related: [Trump fires back after the CEO of Merck resigned from his manufacturing council]

The “war on whites” is a core concern of Trump’s base, but it isn’t true. White people, especially white males, still have a huge advantage in American society. White people not only control a vastly disproportionate share of the country’s wealth, income and economic power, they also enjoy tremendous advantages helping them to stay ahead financially.

On average, whites are far more likely to get hired and are paid more than nonwhites. Just having a “white-sounding name,” such as Emily or Greg, makes a job applicant 50 percent more like to get called for a job interview than a person with a name given more frequently to African Americans, such as Lakisha or Jamal, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. That helps explain why the black unemployment rate has been about double the white unemployment rate for decades, according to Labor Department statistics.

White families on average have 14 times more wealth than black families and nearly 11 times more than Hispanic families, according to the Census Bureau. Nonwhites are far more likely to live in poverty and go to jail than whites. The American Dream of owning a home has been achieved by more than 72 percent of whites. In contrast, more than half of black and Hispanic households rent.

There’s been a lot of attention directed to the plight of the white working class, the “Trump base” that propelled him to victory. It’s true that whites without college degrees have a harder time finding good-paying jobs in 2017 than they did in the past as manufacturing jobs have gone to robots. It’s also true that suicide and substance abuse is way up among whites in their prime working years, a phenomenon that stunned the nation after Princeton economists Angus Deaton (a Nobel Prize winner) and Anne Case pointed it out in 2015.

But keep this in mind: The white working class still fares better economically than the nonwhite working class. Among Americans who have graduated high school but don’t have a college degree, whites have the lowest unemployment rate and are paid on average $150 more than blacks and $125 more than Hispanics every week, according to Labor Department wage data. That helps explain why only 9 percent of white families live in poverty, while nearly a quarter of black families do.

Perhaps the most telling statistic of all is to look at what Americans say when they are specifically asked if they have ever been discriminated against because of the color of their skin. More than a third of blacks and a quarter of Hispanics say they have personally faced discrimination; just 11 percent of whites do.

Here are 10 charts showing the many ways whites are overwhelmingly better off than nonwhites in America today.

White people earn more money

White people own more stuff

In 2013, the net worth of the typical white household was $132,483, according to the census. That’s nearly 15 times greater than the typical black household’s net worth of $9,211. Hispanic households, with a median net worth of $12,460, don’t fare that much better.

White people are more likely to be homeowners

White people are less poor

White people have lower unemployment

The remarkable thing about these gaps is how consistent they are across educational attainment. While the rise of Donald Trump has brought a flood of media attention to his white, non-college voter base, black non-college graduates face even more daunting employment prospects.

White people live longer than blacks

White people are more likely to get a bachelor’s degree

White people are less likely to go to jail

White people say they experience less discrimination

Read more: 

On Twitter, Trump accuses blacks of racism three times as often as whites

Trump fires back after the CEO of Merck resigned from his manufacturing council

Politicians respond to violent protests in Charlottesville


Christopher Ingraham writes about all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Heather Long is an economics correspondent. Before joining The Washington Post, she was a senior economics reporter at CNN and a columnist and deputy editor at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. She also worked at an investment firm in London.

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