I have been tracking victims of America's new economy for three decades. Beyond the poorest among us in inner cities and high risk rural areas, and despite the growth of millions of new jobs since the 1990s, the simple truth is that many people have been left behind by economic growth. There are those who have been on the frontlines of the transformation from a manufacturing-based economy to a service /information based economy. There are others who simply have never really enjoyed financial gain. And finally, there are those millions of Americans who have simply left their previous middle class status and are worried for themselves and their children.
Zogby Analytics asks a series of economic victims questions on most of our nationwide polls. We wonder how many people live in a household where someone has lost a job due to corporate downsizing, who is afraid of losing a job within the next year, and who is working at a job that pays less than an immediate previous job. I have aggregated Zogby Polls from January through October 2014. Based on a total sample of 11,979 adults (with an overall margin-of-sampling error of +/- 0.9 percentage points, here is an in-depth look at the millions of economic victims in our midst.
One in nine (11%) reported that they or someone in their household had "lost a job due to corporate downsizing in the past year." But the distribution was uneven. Younger Americans were more likely to fall into this category - 14% each of 18-29 year olds and 30-49 year olds, and particularly those right in the middle (25-34 year olds, 18%). Hispanics were especially hard hit (23%), which helped drive up those who lost these jobs in the West (16%) and among Catholics, with a high concentration of Hispanics (17%). Residents of large cities were far more likely to lose jobs (17%) as were Americans who are married (13%), weekly attendees at a place of worship (28%), those living in a household where there is a union member, a veteran or current member of the armed forces (21%), and a weekly shopper at Wal-Mart (18%).
Sometimes, the results appeared to be counter-intuitive. Self-identified members of the Creative Class were harder hit than others (18%), as were NASCAR fans (21%), members of the Investor Class (20%), and (notably) current members of the National Rifle Association (38%). Seventeen percent of those who identified themselves as LGBT lived in a household where someone lost a job due to corporate downsizing - as did the 17% who earned $100,000 to $150,000 and the 15% who earned over $150,000 in 2013. Those who sympathize with either the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street have about the same experience (21% and 22%, respectively).
One in five (22%) told us they lived in a household where someone "is afraid of losing a job within the next year." Interestingly, this fear seems to plague those 30-49 more (25%) than younger Americans (20%) - perhaps because Millennials feel less a sense of permanence on the job and because many are still single, with fewer family responsibilities. Again Hispanics are high (28%) as are Asians (23%), residents of large cities (24%), Catholics (24%), union households (32%), members of both the Creative Class (27%) and the Investor Class (26%), NASCAR fans (27%), those who have at least college degrees (22%), current NRA members (40%), Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers (26%), and those either sympathize with the Tea Party (30%) or Occupy Wall Street (30%). Again, the percentage is higher among those in the LGBT community (28%). There is across the board impact among all income groups.
Twenty-three percent told us that they "or someone in their household works at a job that pays less than an immediate previous job." I have seen the national response to that questions climb from 14% in 1991 to 19% in 2000, to 27% in 2007, and 37% by 2009. The reasons for the decline are simple. The key to understanding the question is the term "immediate previous job" - meaning that by now many Americans are working in their second (or more) in a series of lower paying jobs, or they have simply retired and are not working at all. In any event, one in four working for less is an enormous number - and its impact is really across the board. All income groups are in the 18% to 26% range. Residents of large cities (27%), those who are married (25%); Hispanics (25%), Asians (22%), whites (23%), and African Americans (19%) are harder hit as are people living in union households (31%), members of the Creative Class (30%) and the Investor Class (26%), and those who identify themselves as LGBT (27%).
So when we read about Americans who are disappointed, disillusioned, angry, have given up, have little faith in government, and feel that the country is not headed in the right direction - there is so much at work here than ideology, talk radio and cable television. It is the actual experience of status anxiety, the reality of losing ground - and fearing losing more ground.