Whites without a college degree are dying in America, that's why they voted for Donald Trump



Thousands of stories have been written about why angry, poor, under-educated white voters put Donald Trump into the Oval Office in a 2016 presidential election that almost every political analyst got wrong. On Thursday, two Princeton economists released a study that sheds some light on how and why this happened.

Death rates among under-educated whites (those with a high school education or less) have now surpassed blacks overall in America. In fact, mortality rates are 30 percent higher for whites between the ages of 50-54 than for blacks overall of the same age, the Princeton economists – Anne Case and Angus Deaton – said in a study released by the Brookings Institution.

"Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s," Brookings said about the study.

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Demonstrators protest at the beach in support of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Demonstrators send off white doves from the beach as they protest in support of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally in Hunginton Beach, California, U.S., March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick Fallon
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters cheer for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Supporters cheer for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as he speaks at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters (L-R) Annalisa Wales, 12, Scarlett Wales, 9, Barbara Wales, 68, and Katherine Wales, 10, wait for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to speak at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters cheer for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in San Jose, California, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
People listen to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California, U.S. June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man carries a sign for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally to highlight POW-MIA issues on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, U.S. May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People watch Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump address the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally to highlight POW-MIA issues on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, U.S. May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters attend a rally with Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in San Diego, California, U.S. May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Marcos Spence solicits volunteers to work for the campaign of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump as they stand in line before the start of his rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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A supporter of Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign before Trump speaks at a campaign event in Anaheim, California U.S. May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Supporters of Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump arrive before Trump speaks at a campaign event in Anaheim, California U.S. May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Supporters of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump stand in line before the start of his rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a Trump campaign rally at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump wearing a "Trump for President '16" t-shirt listens to the candidate speak at a campaign rally at the airport in Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S. On April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
Activists of Hindu Sena, a Hindu right-wing group, perform a special prayer to ensure a victory of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in the upcoming elections, according to a media release, in New Delhi, India May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
Supporters hold signs as Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lynden, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Supporters cheer as Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lynden, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Supporters hold signs as Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lynden, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Delegate Douglas Marshall in the Donald Trump booth during the second day of the Republican Party of Texas state convention on May 13, 2016 in Dallas. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes a photo during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump supporters Josh (R), and his father Jeff Schimek (L), wait for him to speaks during a Town Hall at the Racine Civic Centre Memorial Hall April 2, 2016. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
Supporters (L) of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump point and scream at an anti-Trump demonstrator (R) holding a sign reading "More Like Make America Racist Again" sign during a Trump campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Rosemary Harder wears a hat supporting Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump during a news conference, after the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections, held at his Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
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A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrates with a cigar at Trump's 2016 South Carolina presidential primary night rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina February 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Freda Green, of Louisiana, wears a hat in support of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump before a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
A veteran of both the Korean and the Vietnam War, C.J. Dauzt wears a sticker in support of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump before a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
10-year-old Ian Linden, of New Orleans, holds a sign in support of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump before a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wait for the start of his campaign rally in Plymouth, New Hampshire February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Anne-Sophie Marquis cradles her doll Clare, wearing a button supporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, at a Trump campaign rally in Plymouth, New Hampshire February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
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Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attend a campaign rally at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
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Trump supporters Joshua Smith (from Left) and Seth Stephens, both of Aiken, South Carolina and Rona Bartolomucci of Hilton Head Island, wait along the front buffer before a rally for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill
FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ - MARCH 19: Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump look on during Fountain Park during a campaign rally on March 19, 2016 in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Trumps visit to Arizona is the second time in three months as he looks to gain the GOP nomination for President. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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A supporter of Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, wears campaign stickers on her sandals before a town hall event at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, U.S., on Monday, March 14, 2016. As protesters shadow campaign appearances by Trump, the billionaire has shifted a planned Monday-night rally in south Florida to Ohio, where polls show Governor John Kasich may be pulling ahead days before the states primary election. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Attendees wait for the start of a campaign event with Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bloomington, Illinois, U.S., on Sunday, March 13, 2016. After violent protests prompted Donald Trump to cancel a rally in Chicago on Friday night, the Republican presidential front-runner blamed the activist group MoveOn.Org and supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders for the chaos, while defending his own harassed supporters. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, left, stands with a man he called onto the stage from the crowd because of the 'Legal Immigrant For Trump' t-shirt he was wearing, during a campaign event in Bloomington, Illinois, U.S., on Sunday, March 13, 2016. After violent protests prompted Donald Trump to cancel a rally in Chicago on Friday night, the Republican presidential front-runner blamed the activist group MoveOn.Org and supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders for the chaos, while defending his own harassed supporters. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Supporters of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gather prior to a Trump Rally at the Peabody Opera House on March 11, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. / AFP / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read MICHAEL B. THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gather prior to a Trump Rally at the Peabody Opera House on March 11, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. / AFP / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read MICHAEL B. THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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A woman reacts as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump works the crowd following a campaign event in an airplane hanger in Rome, New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A woman reacts as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump works the crowd following a campaign event in an airplane hanger in Rome, New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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"This is due to both rises in the number of 'deaths of despair'—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age," Brookings said.

These are exactly the areas where Trump did his best. He over-performed the most in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates, according to Shannon Monnat, a political science researcher at Penn State University. She determined he also did the best in the counties with a large working class and high economic stress.

The combined effect of all of this is that mortality rates for whites in this demographic now surpass the death rates of blacks. According to the study, it grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks two years ago.

It's hard to sugar-coat these findings. To be brutally honest: mortality rates for people in the middle of their life in rich countries all over the world are falling – except for under-educated whites in the United States.

Rich countries, many of them with universal health coverage, are making progress against deadly diseases such as heart disease and cancer. That clearly isn't true for poor, under-educated whites in America, this study shows. The findings by Case and Deaton come at a curious time – right as President Trump tried (and failed) to convince Congress to strip health care coverage for millions of poor, under-educated white voters.

The study also shows clearly that "deaths of despair" are rising for both white women and men without a high school degree, and that "deaths of despair" are increasing among this cohort in all parts of America and every level of urbanization. The reason for the increase in death rates is equally as sobering. Basically, the authors said, the economic and social rug has been pulled out from beneath them.

"The authors suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social well-being, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort," Brookings summarized. "Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise."

The decline and rise in mortality rates for working-class whites began in the 1970s as the nature of the American economy began to change, and accelerated during the 2008 economic crisis, the authors said.

The research was based on 15 data sets, including government health statistics, death certificates and economic indicators. Case and Deaton, who is a Nobel Prize winner, have been writing about this subject for years. They published a widely-covered paper in 2015 on a similar topic.

There was a "marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013," Case and Deaton wrote then. "This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround."

That 2015 paper was a startling finding for a global economic power such as the United States. In fact, they said two years ago, the trend had been underway for decades, and that it was only a matter of time before mortality rates for under-educated whites eclipsed that of blacks.

That day has arrived.

The bleak picture that Case and Deaton painted initially is even worse today. Blacks have historically had a much higher death rate than whites. But mortality rates among blacks have dropped considerably in the past few decades – while the rates for working class whites began to rise. The opioid epidemic has made the situation worse, they said.

In sharp contrast, mortality rates for whites with a college degree continue to decline. It is only among working class whites with less education that death rates are getting worse. The disparities in death rates among whites and blacks in the same economic demographic can't be explained by income alone, they said. Blacks and Hispanics face similar economic hardships as working class whites – but haven't suffered as much.

"This doesn't seem to be about current income, it seems to be about accumulating despair," Case said in a press call. Working class whites, by and large, seemed to have given up the belief that their children would be better off than them in the future, they said.

The rise in mortality rates for working class whites appears to be rooted equally in poor job opportunities and social dysfunction – which explains the anger that under-educated white voters carried with them into the 2016 presidential election. And this anger is what propelled Trump into the White House.

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