Blog Post

Income inequality boosted Trump vote

Our early econometric analysis shows that Donald Trump performed more strongly in states with higher income inequality. He also did better in states with a higher share of less-educated, older, US-born and non-Hispanic voters.

By: and Date: November 9, 2016 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

Did the level of income inequity influence voters in the 2016 US presidential election? To answer this question, we analysed the currently available results to uncover the factors influencing Trump’s share of the vote.

Recent surveys and analyses (for example the Bloomberg report here) show that the share of Trump votes was higher in counties with a higher share of white, middle-income, US-born, rural and less-educated voters. In our econometric regressions we control for some of these factors to see if income inequality has additional explanatory power. Using state-level data, we find that in all variants of our regressions income inequality has a positive and statistically significant parameter estimate (see table below). This means that more unequal states were more likely to vote for Trump.

Since voting behaviour is rather persistent in the US, our dependent variable is the change of the share of Republican candidate votes in 2016 compared to the average in the past three elections, (ie the average of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections). Some of the explanatory variables are highly correlated, like the share of Hispanic and the share of foreign born population, so we estimated different versions of the model in which we include only one of the highly correlated variables.

We find that a swing towards the Republicans was stronger in states where:

  • Income inequality is higher (measured as the Gini coefficient),
  • The Hispanic share of the population is lower,
  • The foreign-born share of the population is lower,
  • The share of the population that is young (19-44) is lower and the share of older people (45+) is higher,
  • The share of the population with at most a high school degree is higher and the share of the population with at least some college education is lower.

On the other hand, when trying to explain the shift to Donald Trump compared with the previous three Republican candidates, our analysis does not find statistically significant effects from gender and the African-American share of the population.

We will refine our calculations by using county-level data later, but these state-level findings already indicate an important role for income inequality in predicting votes for Trump. In fact, our regression results for the determinants of Trump votes are rather similar to the determinants of ‘leave’ votes in the United Kingdom’s June 2016 Brexit referendum, as one of us analysed here. While our results should be interpreted carefully, not least because both main US presidential candidates have certain characteristics which made them unpopular in the eyes of certain segments of the society, our findings are not against the interpretation that the ‘losers’ of globalisation cast protest votes against the status quo.

trump-and-inequality-table

Notes: The dependent variable is the difference between the share of votes for Donald Trump minus the average share of votes for the Republican candidate in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections.  t statistics in parentheses, statistical significance: * p<0.10, ** p<0.05, *** p<0.01. Data collected at 11.00CET on 9/11/2016.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Is there life After TTIP? The future of transatlantic economic relations

The partnership between North America and Europe is becoming unsettled and uncertain. How can we deal with this new situation that threatens the prosperity and ultimately the position of North America and Europe in the global economy.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Daniel S. Hamilton, Luisa Santos and André Sapir Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: February 19, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Climate policies risk increasing social inequality

The aggressive political interventions needed to effectively counteract climate change will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, if social concerns are not given greater prominence in policy debates.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: February 8, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The International Economic Consequences of Mr. Trump

What has fundamentally changed with the Trump administration is not that it behaves more selfishly than its predecessors, but that it seems unconvinced that the global system serves US strategic interests. For the rest of the world, the key question is whether the global system is resilient enough to survive its creator’s withdrawal.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 31, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

A few good (wo)men – on the representation of women in economics

Last week, the American Economics Association Annual Meetings held a session on Gender Issues in Economics and later announced that a new code of professional conduct is in the pipeline. In this blogs review we revise the recent contributions on female representation and perception in economics.

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 15, 2018
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Sustainable growth in transition countries

This event will feature a presentation of the EBRD Transition Report 2017-18.

Speakers: Jonathan Charles, Zsolt Darvas, Sergei Guriev, Debora Revoltella and Lucio Vinhas de Souza Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: November 28, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Phillips vs. Pass-through, or the changing ECB understanding of inflation

This blog post looks at how the approach of the ECB to inflation has changed over the years. It shows the ECB has moved, over the years, from a small towards a large country approach, giving more weight to the improving employment conditions than to the appreciating exchange rate in deciding its monetary policy moves.

By: Francesco Papadia and Alessandra Marcelletti Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 25, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

What has driven the votes for Germany’s right-wing Alternative für Deutschland?

The AfD vote in East Germany was consistently stronger than in the West, even after controlling for income, age, education, religion and the overall rural nature of the new Bundesländer.

By: Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 5, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Hong Kong should add the euro to its dollar peg

Volatility offers an opportunity for the territory to rethink its strategy. With the economy now more synchronised with China than ever before, the dollar peg may no longer provide an accurate reflection of the real value of the Hong Kong dollar.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 12, 2017
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2017

The Annual Meetings are Bruegel’s flagship event. They offer a mixture of large public debates and small private sessions about key issues in European and global economics. In a series of high-level discussions, Bruegel’s scholars, members and stakeholders will address the economic policy challenges facing Europe.

Speakers: Carlos Sallé Alonso, José Antonio Álvarez Álvarez, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Pervenche Béres, Matthias Buck, Grégory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Jean Luc Demarty, Maria Demertzis, Anna Ekström, Lowri Evans, Ferdinando Giugliano, Sandro Gozi, Peter Grünenfelder, Reiner Hoffmann, Levin Holle, Kate Kalutkiewicz, Steffen Kampeter, Peter Kažimír, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Matti Maasikas, Steven Maijoor, Reza Moghadam, Nathalie Moll, James Murray, Johan Van Overtveldt, Julia Reinaud, André Sapir, Dirk Schoenmaker, Mateusz Szczurek, Marianne Thyssen, Jean-Claude Trichet, Reinhilde Veugelers, Nicolas Véron, Ida Wolden Bache, Liviu Voinea, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Square - Brussels Meeting Centre Date: September 7, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Hurricane Harvey’s economic impact

What’s at stake: tropical storm Harvey has caused unprecedented and catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. We review recent estimates of the economic impact of this natural disaster.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 4, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Should the EU have the power to vet foreign takeovers?

Should the EU have the power to vet foreign takeovers? André Sapir and Alicia Garcia-Herrero debate the issue, which has become topical in view of recent Chinese investment in Europe.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and André Sapir Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 1, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The issue of U.S. prescription drug prices

What’s at stake: Americans spend a lot on prescription drugs, more per capita than any other country by far. Individual cases of sharp price increases - like the case of the EpiPen - have recently driven attention to this issue. We report review contributions on this topic.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: August 24, 2017
Load more posts