Populism is Easier to Say than Xenophobia

This morning on Fareed Zakaria's GPS, Fareed made the connection between "populist" victories in the West and immigration. In countries where 22% or more immigrants reside, more than 50% of citizens express right-wing anti-immigrant sympathies.

That got me to wondering. Clearly the anti-immigrant passions were riled up in the US, mostly by middle class whites who believed that immigrants somehow harmed either the nation or their families. But what does the data tell us?

States with the most immigrant residents:
(Combined data from Wikipedia and Migration Policy)

U.S. Average:
May 2015 Median Hourly Wage: $17.40
Sept 2016 Unemployment: 5%

26% Foreign Born: California
Median Wage: $19.05
Unemployment: 5.5%

22% Foreign Born: New York 
Median Wage: $20.00
Unemployment: 5%

21% Foreign Born: New Jersey
Median Wage: $19.86
Unemployment: 5.3%

19% Foreign Born: Florida
Median Wage: $15.29
Unemployment: N/A

18% Foreign Born: Nevada 
Median Wage: $16.20
Unemployment: 5.8%

17% Foreign Born: Hawaii 
Median Wage: $18.63
Unemployment: 3.3%

16% Foreign Born: Texas
Median Wage: $16.61
Unemployment: 4.8%

15% Foreign Born: Massachusetts 
Median Wage: $21.91
Unemployment: 3.6%

14% Foreign Born: Illinois
Median Wage: $17.94
Unemployment: 5.5%

13% Foreign Born: Washington
Median Wage: $20.28
Unemployment: 5.6%

13% Foreign Born: Arizona 
Median Wage: $16.67
Unemployment: 5.5%
I find it interesting that eight of these eleven states are solid Democratic states, places where Trump's xenophobia did not resonate in spite of their high proportions of immigrants. And examining the situations for workers in these states, most of them enjoy wages above the national median, particularly the three with the highest proportions of immigrants. The unemployment picture however is less rosy, with the majority having higher rates of unemployment than the national average (which is now 4.6% nationally but was 5% when the most recent state figures were published).

And not a one of these states is among the direst poverty states. That sad reality is relegated to states with the least immigrants.

Looking historically, we see another interesting pattern. At no time in the last 166 years has the US exceeded the aforementioned 22% foreign born figure, but we have approached 15% at times. Here is that history:

So our peak numbers of foreign born were from 1860-1920 and from 2010-today. Both of those were times of intense national economic growth.

I have grown weary of the excuses made for Trump voters. Rural areas have not been left behind.
 Manufacturing jobs didn't disappear because of immigration or trade. The Democratic Party is not the one obsessed with "identity politics". Let's tell the truth here. Xenophobia, intellectual laziness, a preference for empty-headed bullies "who sound like me", and the convenience of fake news influenced voters. 


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