Editor’s Note: Zoltan L. Hajnal and Barbara F. Walter are professors of political science at the University of California San Diego. Hajnal is co-author of “White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics.” Walter is co-founder of the blog Political Violence @ a Glance. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.
Hajnal and Walter: It's worth looking at how different groups have fared under Democratic and Republican presidencies
Based on over five decades of historical data, the answer is crystal clear
Americans from almost all groups do much better economically when a Democrat is in the White House
At the first presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton offered wildly divergent plans on how the United States can “achieve prosperity.” Trump’s economic plan includes extensive tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, and decreases in federal spending. He even describes his plan as “the most pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-family plan put forth perhaps in the history of our country.”
Clinton makes equally strong claims about how her economic plan will help Americans. Her plan, however, looks nothing like Trump’s. It includes tax cuts for the middle class, a raise in the minimum wage, greater government spending and tax increases for the very wealthy.
So whose plan is better? It’s worth looking to the past to see how different groups have fared under similar economic plans with Democratic and Republican presidencies. Based on over five decades of historical data, the answer is crystal clear. Americans from almost all groups do much better economically when a Democrat is in the White House than when a Republican is.
Let’s start with women. Using census data to track changes in annual income, poverty and unemployment by gender, we have found a remarkably consistent pattern. Women do better – much better – when Democrats control the presidency.
Over the last half century, women’s median annual income grew almost twice as fast under Democrats than it did under Republicans. The average gain in income for women was $443 per year under Democrats but only $284 per year under Republicans. Women are also more likely to experience increases in employment when Democrats control the Oval Office. Female unemployment drops by an average of 0.2 points every year under Democrats, while it goes up by about the same amount under Republicans. The pattern for poverty is exactly the same. Across all the years in our data set, female poverty rates decreased by a total of 3.2 points under Democrats and grew by a total of 3.2 under Republicans.
What about other members of society? Remarkably, all segments of society that scholars have examined do well economically under Democrats. One study by Larry Bartels, a professor at Vanderbilt University, reveals that lower-income Americans also benefit greatly by having a Democrat in the White House. The incomes of the bottom quintile of earners grow 2.6% annually under Democrats but only 0.4% annually under Republicans.
The same is true for racial and ethnic minorities. Another study, by Zoltan Hajnal of UC San Diego and Jeremy Horowitz, found that black incomes went up by an average of $753 more per year under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. Black unemployment also fell substantially under Democrats, while it grew significantly under Republicans. In 22 years under Democratic presidents, black unemployment fell 7.9 points. This is not the case under Republican presidents. By contrast, in 35 years under Republicans, black unemployment grew 13.7 points.
Similarly, according to Hajnal and Horowitz, Latinos and Asians also do much worse under Republicans than under Democrats. Latino incomes, for example, grew an average of $627 a year under Democratic presidents while falling by $197 a year under Republicans.
Some might argue that these financial differentials are simply the result of Democrats controlling the presidency during more prosperous times. The data suggest otherwise. Even after accounting for the overall state of the economy and other longer-term trends in well-being, the differences persist. Women, blacks, Latinos and Asians still do better with a Democrat in the White House than with a Republican.
But that’s not all. The longer Democrats are in the Oval Office, the better off all these groups are, at least economically speaking. Women, blacks, Latinos and Asians see even greater gains during a Democratic president’s second term. In other words, Democrats are actively improving outcomes for Americans, not simply inheriting strong economies from Republicans.
What about men and whites? Remarkably, the data prove that nobody loses under Democrats. In fact, almost the entire American public does better economically when Democrats occupy the Oval Office. Our analysis shows that men also enjoy economic gains under Democrats, even if the gains are not as high as those of women. Male incomes, for example, go up $153 more annually when Democrats are in charge. Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University has further shown that upper-income Americans fare well under Democrats, too. Incomes of the top 5% earners go up 2.1% annually on average under Democratic presidents. Research by Hajnal and Horowitz also reveals that minorities do not gain at the expense of whites. White incomes go up $451 faster annually, white poverty declines half a point faster annually and white unemployment declines a third of a point faster annually under Democrats than under Republicans.
It is easy for candidates to make claims about the future and the quality of their economic plans. Anyone can say that his or her plan will make America great again. But data and evidence exist to show which kinds of plans actually work. We know based on a half century of evidence that one party’s plans deliver much better results for Americans than the other. Judging by the facts, Americans will do much better under a Democratic president than under a Republican president, no matter what each candidate says at the next two debates. In short, it only makes good economic sense to vote Democrat.
Zoltan L. Hajnal and Barbara F. Walter are professors of political science at the University of California San Diego. Hajnal is co-author of “White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics.” Walter is co-founder of the blog Political Violence @ a Glance. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.