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Race Remains the Great Divider: Even Rich People of Color Are Unlikely to Support Republicans

Sean McElwee

Imagine a rich person. For most Americans, the image that comes to mind is a wealthy white man. While white men certainly make up a disproportionate share of the wealthy, there is growing diversity among the wealthiest members of society. Given the increasing political salience of racial justice and gender equity, this diversity could have impacts on policy. I find that there are indeed large differences between rich men and rich women (defining that group as those earning more than $150,000 a year), as well as between rich white people and rich people of color. High-income women of color are far more progressive than white men.

American politics is increasingly defined by race, gender, sexual identity and religion, rather than dividing along class lines. Indeed, the 2016 election centered on questions of immigration, crime and racism far more than traditional bread-and-butter issues like jobs and economic growth. Discussions about the implications of this shift tend to focus on people who have race and gender privilege, but lack class privilege (for instance, the focus on working-class white men). However, there is also a flip side, which is far less studied — people who have class privilege, but do not have race or gender privilege. Research suggests that the wealthy have more influence over policy (since they are more likely to vote, volunteer for campaigns, contact their representative and contribute money to a campaign), so the rise of a more progressive class of wealthy individuals could have important implications for policy.[...]