“Californication”—Increasing Inequality—Surprisingly Good For Democratic Pols
blue state-red state IQ hoax with which so many
millions of disappointed Democrats have consoled
themselves since the election can seem initially
plausible. Blue states tend to have more prestigious
research centers, and
sophisticated cities than red states.
But in reality, as I`ve
shown, there is little overall difference between
the average educational attainments between Democrats
Democrats, however, tend to be more
inegalitarian, with higher highs and lower lows than the
more middling Republicans.
This is clearly visible in the
biggest blue state of them all, California.
Census Bureau figures show that
California, traditionally America`s trendsetter, is
pioneering a new kind of class structure—ominously like
highly unequal Latin American countries like
long viewed as the
promised land of the American middle class, is
slowly developing a novel U-shaped social system.
Relatively large numbers of both the well-educated and
the badly-educated are sandwiching a shrinking middle.
This trend toward greater
inequality might seem at odds with the ideals of the
Democratic Party. But, in fact, it could bode well for
party is ceasing to represent blue collar workers.
Instead, it has morphed into an alliance between the
elite and the underclass.
According to a Census Bureau
Supplementary Survey of 700,000 households across the
country, California boasts 2 million recipients of
graduate degrees (master`s or Ph.D. or professional
diplomas such as M.D. or J.D.).
Yet this sophisticated state also
is home to 2.2 million adults who never even attended
high school. Their ranks were up 7 percent during the
1990s. By contrast, in the rest of America, the number
of adults who had never seen the inside of a high school
dropped by 30 percent over that decade.
The Golden State is now one of only
three states with above average percentages both of
people who never got past elementary school and
of holders of graduate degrees. (The other two are New
Mexico and Rhode Island.) In California, 10.7 percent of
grownups have no more than elementary schooling,
compared to only 6.4 percent in the other 49 states.
Of all the states in the Union,
California now has the lowest percentage of its
population with a midlevel education consisting of at
least a high school diploma or some college, but not a
bachelor`s degree from a four-year college.
Silicon Valley and other technology centers attract
the highly educated from
Asia and across America. More surprisingly, a
prestigious degree is now often expected in Hollywood. A
veteran sitcom writer who worked for years on Married
with Children complained privately about the
"Harvard mafia" that she feels increasingly has
TV joke writing ever since the
Harvard Lampoon-laden screenwriting staff of
"The Simpsons" emerged in 1990.
These upper-middle-class newcomers
tend to be liberal, especially on cultural issues.
Mexican immigrants supply much of California`s huge
less-educated people. According to a 2000 Census
Bureau survey, 65 percent of America`s Mexican
immigrants never finished high school versus only 9.6
percent of natives.
And, according to the NEP
exit poll, in 2004 California`s Hispanics gave only
32 percent of their votes to Bush.
As immigrants move into California,
native-born Americans move out. From 1990 to 1999,
according to University of Michigan demographer
William H. Frey, 2.2 million more
California residents moved to
other states than other Americans moved to
Frey, who is also with the
"Another cause of the rise of the California Democrats
is selective out-migration of the more rock-ribbed
Republicans. The folks who have been leaving
California`s suburbs for other states have the white,
middle-class demographic profiles of Republican voters.
California`s middle-class families are being squeezed
out by real estate prices. And Republicans are heading
for whiter states where they won`t have to pay taxes for
so many social programs for the poor."
California`s "education gap"
also shows up in income statistics. In California, 6.8
percent of all households make more than $150,000 per
year versus 4.1 percent elsewhere.
In contrast, 14 percent of
California households are
poor compared to only 12.3 percent of households in
the other 49 states.
And this measure actually
underestimates California`s poverty problem, because the
federal government uses the same poverty level
nationwide, despite California`s higher cost of living.
For example, the state`s median rent is 30 percent
greater than elsewhere.
What`s at work in New Mexico and
Rhode Island—the other two states that are above average
in both graduate degrees and adults who`ve never been to
Ever since the
Manhattan Project built the atomic bomb during World
New Mexico has had a social chasm, with
Los Alamos physicists and
Santa Fe glitterati on one side, and poor
Mexican-Americans and American Indians on the other.
Rhode Island is demographically
split between the workers in New England`s
intellectual-industrial complex and the state`s many
blue-collar immigrants from the
Portuguese-speaking world, most notably the very
Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa.
The evidence from recent elections
suggests that inequality might be good for the
George W. Bush lost decisively both
times in California, the state that bequeathed
Richard Nixon and
Ronald Reagan to the Republican Party. In 2004, John
Kerry won a solid ten point victory over George W. Bush.
Bush hasn`t reached 40 percent of
the vote in Rhode Island in two tries.
After losing New Mexico by a hair
in 2000, he won a single point victory there this year.
Still, Bush finished below 50 percent in New Mexico this
year, while be broke 70 percent in nearby, but much more
Traditionally, Democrats have done
best with the educational extremes. The
exit poll in 2000 showed Gore carrying the
educational extremes. Nationally, the former vice
president won 59 percent to 39 percent among voters
without high school degrees. Similarly, he beat Bush 52
percent to 44 percent among those with postgraduate
degrees. In contrast, Bush carried the middle. He beat
Gore 49 percent to 48 percent among high school
graduates and 51 percent to 45 percent among both those
with only some college and those with a bachelor`s
In the 2004 election, according to
exit poll, Bush won a solid 53 percent of everyone
falling into the high school graduate, some college, or
college graduate categories, while getting only 44
percent of those claiming to have some postgraduate
One difference from 2000 is that
Bush`s share of the high school dropouts was up to 49
percent (insert cynical joke about Bush`s appeal to the
Strikingly, the percentage of
residents with graduate degrees proved one of the
strongest predictors of whether a state would vote
Republican or Democrat. Gore won only three of the 25
states with the fewest graduate degree holders. He won
17 of the 25 states with the most graduate degree
Utah, the destination of so many disgruntled
ex-Californians, is emerging as the anti-California. It
leads the country with only 2.4 percent of its residents
never having attended high school.
Paradoxically, this staunchly
Republican state, where Bush won 71 percent in 2004,
exemplifies some of the supposed egalitarian ideals of
the Democratic Party. A 2000 study by the Economic
Policy Institute found Utah to have the most equal
income distribution of any state.
Still, Utah is more likely to be
the anomaly and California the harbinger of the United
Quite why the Republicans are
supporting this transformation is another matter.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and