Thursday, March 28, 2019

Automation Threat and Trump Country

There are those who continue to believe that Trumpian populism had and has nothing to do with economics. They are most likely to found on the "woke" left, among readers of Vox and in the nation's political science departments. To those who say--but wait! Look at where these people live and what's been happening to their communities--they employ the sturdy Marxian riposte, who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?
For the rest of us, there'a an interesting new Brookings study out about the effect of automation and automation threat on Trump/Republican voting.
"Derived from assessments of occupations’ automatability provided by David Autor and McKinsey Global Institute, our analyses are based on quantifications of the likelihood the current task mix of hundreds of occupations could be automated with current technology. As such, our numbers estimate occupational vulnerability and, essentially, worker precariousness or anxiety about the future—hence their political relevance.
What do our data show? Our data confirm both a stark history of automation in Trump country and substantial future exposure—exposure that points to more work flux, more job uncertainty, and potentially more political disruption.
Along these lines, while our backward-looking look at of “routine” job concentrations and work disruption clearly points to parts of the 2016 backlash map, our forward-looking analyses of automatability makes the link even more tightly.
At the state level, all but one of the ten states most heavily exposed to future job market changes cast its electoral votes for President Trump in 2016....By contrast, all but one of the states with the least exposure to automation, and possessing the highest levels of educational attainment, voted for Hillary Clinton, perhaps reflecting greater comfort with tech trends that have most benefited these same states. The strong association of 2016 Electoral College outcomes and state automation exposure—leaving aside questions of deeper causality—very much suggests that the spread of workplace automation and associated worker anxiety about the future may have played some role in the Trump backlash and Republican appeals.....
[T]he party contrast on automation exposure becomes much more dramatic when we look at the range of individual congressional districts’ levels of susceptibility. Now the differences look much larger than they did across states or in aggregate. Specifically, only 4 of the 50 most automation-exposed congressional districts are represented by Democrats, while every one of the 50 least-exposed districts is represented by Democrats.....
The story told by congressional-district voting very much confirms that jurisdictions exposed to the most automation-based dislocation are some of the most likely to vote Republican. [I]t is clear that to the extent that places experiencing high automation threats are experiencing greater economic stress, that stress is a factor in their voting behavior.
....[A]utomation, and the worker anxieties associated with it, appears to be a subtle, real, and far-reaching factor in voting behavior that may be triggering even more anxiety in red America than blue America, with more stress to come. Such trends underscore the importance of problem-solving to help mitigate the transitions ahead and suggest that it would behoove the presidential candidates to begin describing their responses."
Sounds like good advice. Democratic candidates are you listening?

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