Friday, January 7, 2022

Are U.S. Professionals and Managers More Left Than Blue-Collar Workers? An Analysis of the General Social Survey, 1974 to 2018

Are U.S. Professionals and Managers More Left Than Blue-Collar Workers? An Analysis of the General Social Survey, 1974 to 2018. Steven Brint, Michaela Curran, Matthew C. Mahutga. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World January 6, 2022.

Abstract: Social science interest in professionals and managers as a left- and liberal-trending stratum has increased in recent years. Using General Social Survey data over a 44-year period, the authors examine 15 attitudes spanning social, economic, and political identity liberalism. On nearly all attitudes, professionals and managers have trended in a liberal direction, have liberalized more quickly than blue-collar workers, and are either as or more liberal than blue-collar workers. The authors find that the higher levels of education among professionals and managers, their tendency to adopt nonauthoritarian outlooks, and their lower propensity to identify with fundamentalist religion mediate their more liberal trends vis-à-vis blue-collar workers. Conversely, their higher relative incomes suppress the extent of their economic and criminal justice liberalism. The authors’ theorization links changes in the macro-economy to growing gaps in the composition of the two strata and the activities of politicians and parties to consolidate emerging political differences.

Keywords: professionals and managers, blue-collar workers, political attitudes, political realignment, political trends

The left-liberal-trends thesis gains considerably more support in these analyses than it did in analyses conducted in the 1980s and 1990s. On social issues, PM are trending liberal more quickly on two of six issues and at the same rate on one. BC, who were far behind PM at the beginning of the period, are trending more liberal on the remaining three of the issues. PM are now more liberal than BC on three of six social issues, indistinguishable in their liberalism on two, and less liberal on one. On economic issues, PM are trending more liberal than BC on six of seven outcomes and are indistinguishable on one. In the most recent period, they are now more liberal in their level of support for economic liberalism in two cases, indistinguishable on three, and less liberal on only two. In the political identity liberalism domain, PM are trending more liberal than BC on both outcomes and are now more attached to the Democratic Party and more liberal in political ideology than BC. These results are largely robust to shifts in the definition of occupational groups, differences in political attitudes between whites and racial-ethnic minorities, and treatments of scale items as continuous rather than categorical.

This level of support for the left-liberal-trends thesis contrasts with the lesser accuracy of the divided-trends thesis. The latter accurately predicts the direction of change of the two strata on social liberalism issues but not the faster rates of change among PM. It fails to predict the direction of change on nearly all economic issues, as well as the rates of change between the two strata. It also fails to predict either the direction or rate of change in the political identity liberalism domain (see Table 1).

These findings are consequential for social science analyses of American politics. No previous studies have shown a dominant left and liberal trend in PM attitudes across a wide range of issues or such broadly consistent evidence of variation in PM and BC trends. We were able to detect these trends through the use of a longer time series, a larger number of items and scales, and better controlled analyses than social scientists have previously used. Our findings contrast not only with the prevailing view from the 1980s and 1990s but also with arguments that emphasize traditional lines of class division (Bartels 2008Gelman et al. 2010), as well as those that emphasize trendless fluctuation in class politics (Manza, Hout, and Brooks 1995).

The mediators we propose also matter for explaining the attitude gaps between PM and BC. Differences in graduate education, nonauthoritarian values, nonfundamentalist religion, and income help explain observed attitude gaps between PM and BC in all three domains of liberalism. Nonauthoritarian values appear to be the most important compositional difference between PM and BC. Their indirect effect was significantly different from zero 31 of 45 times. The next most important was graduate degrees, which were significantly different from zero 25 of 45 times. In general, the mediating effects of nonauthoritarian values and graduate education are trending in a liberal direction, as evidenced by the positive trends on the graduate degree and nonauthoritarian values coefficients in Figure 2. Nonfundamentalist religion was the least consistent influence on liberal attitudes, as it was significant in 21 of 45 tests. Unlike the other gaps we have discussed, the gap between PM and BC in affiliation with nonfundamentalist religion is narrowing moderately rather than widening, suggesting the possibility that the politics of the two strata could become more similar in the future in so far as these identifications mediate the trends we have observed.

Although income was the third most important compositional factor (significantly different from zero 22 of 45 times), the sign was generally opposite from our expectation. Income showed the expected effects on three social issues, but it showed a conservatizing effect on most issues involving crime control, the power of business and labor, and economic redistribution. It was also not associated with higher levels of adoption of Democratic Party identification or with higher levels of support for government social spending. Income also appears to be trending in a conservative direction, as evidenced in the downward slopes for income in Figure 2. Thus, income generally has no effect or an increasingly conservatizing effect on the attitude gap between PM and BC. These results are consistent with the work of others who have found that higher incomes tend to increase conservatism (Bartels 2008; Hout and Greeley 2010; Tilly 1998). PM are becoming, and in many cases have already become, more liberal and left than BC despite the growing income gap between these two groups rather than because of this gap.

These findings on compositional influences are also consequential for social science analyses of American politics. As far as we know, no social scientists have shown the extent to which attitude trends in the two strata can be explained by macro-level changes that are mediated by changes in the composition of the two strata over time. A next step for researchers will be to explicate the portion of the gaps between PM and BC that cannot be accounted for by these compositional dynamics.

When others are waiting in line, customers tend to accelerate their own service time, and in doing so, sacrifice their own consumption utility; the effect is diminished when they themselves have waited (it is perceived as fair to let others wait if one also had to wait)

Social Queues (Cues): Impact of Others’ Waiting in Line on One’s Service Time. Sezer Ülkü , Chris Hydock, Shiliang Cui. Management Science, Jan 6 2022.

Abstract: The traditional queueing literature assumes that service time is largely independent of social influences. However, queues are social systems; and social considerations are therefore likely to impact customers’ service time decision to the extent they have control. Through a series of experiments, we show that when others are waiting in line, customers tend to accelerate their own service time, and in doing so, sacrifice their own consumption utility. This behavior is driven by concern for others. Notably, the effect is diminished when they themselves have waited, as it is perceived as fair to let others wait if one also had to wait. We further show that obscuring the visibility between customers in service and those waiting in line diminishes the negative effect of others queueing on one’s own service time.

Women prefer less risk & less competition, prioritize equality over efficiency and report a greater willingness to share wealth

Gender preference gaps & voting for redistribution. Eva Ranehill & Roberto A. Weber. Experimental Economics, Jan 6 2022.

Abstract: There is substantial evidence that women tend to support different policies and political candidates than men. Many studies also document gender differences in a variety of important preference dimensions, such as risk-taking, competition and pro-sociality. However, the degree to which differential voting by men and women is related to these gaps in more basic preferences requires an improved understanding. We conduct an experiment in which individuals in small laboratory “societies” repeatedly vote for redistribution policies and engage in production. We find that women vote for more egalitarian redistribution and that this difference persists with experience and in environments with varying degrees of risk. This gender voting gap is accounted for partly by both gender gaps in preferences and by expectations regarding economic circumstances. However, including both these controls in a regression analysis indicates that the latter is the primary driving force. We also observe policy differences between male- and female-controlled groups, though these are substantially smaller than the mean individual differences—a natural consequence of the aggregation of individual preferences into collective outcomes.


We study the relationship between gender gaps in policy preferences and gaps in more basic preferences. There is widespread evidence that men and women differ in their attitudes toward risk, competition and inequality. Several studies also document that men and women sometimes exhibit different voting behavior, with women favoring greater redistribution. However, the degree to which gender gaps in the policy preferences of men and women are the direct result of more basic preference gaps—rather than of other factors, such as differential economic circumstances—requires better understanding.

To investigate this question, we design an experimental environment in which individuals repeatedly vote for redistribution policies and then engage in production subject to these policies. Consistent with evidence from outside the laboratory, women tend to vote for more egalitarian redistributive policies than men. This gap is substantial and persists with experience and is also very similar in environments with and without risk in the relationship between work and initial income.

We also replicate many previously observed gender gaps in more basic preferences. Women prefer less risk and less competition, prioritize equality over efficiency and report a greater willingness to share wealth. They are also less confident about their relative baseline performance in the task that we employ as the production activity, despite there being no gap in actual baseline performance. We then investigate the extent to which these gaps in basic preferences and expectations can account for the gender gap in voting. Our data suggest that preferences do play a role in voting behavior—particularly social preferences and competitiveness. However, differential expectations of future economic outcomes between men and women appear to have a larger impact on voting behavior. In combination, these two sets of factors go a long way in explaining the gender gap in policy preferences.

Finally, we also study whether the gender gap in policy preferences yields different policies enacted in groups where women, rather than men, hold the majority. We find this to be the case, but the magnitude and statistical strength of the group-level policy gaps is considerably smaller than the gaps at the individual level. Some of this naturally reflects a centralizing tendency of many social choice rules, including those like ours in which the median preferences have a large degree of impact.

Our work is important for better understanding how policies enacted in societies and organizations may change as women exert greater influence and control. First, our finding that expectations about relative performance appear to be a more important factor in explaining the gender gap in voting than gaps in more fundamental preferences indicates that the tendency for women to favor greater redistribution than men may diminish as women obtain better economic outcomes and security. Second, the relatively small policy gaps that we observe at the group level between male-dominated and female-dominated groups indicates that changes in policy outcomes from women exerting greater policy control may not be as dramatic as one might expect when extrapolating from average preference gaps at the individual level. Thus, claims that the world would be a fundamentally different place if women were to control policymaking should be tempered by the fact that such impacts may be relatively small. Our findings also provide an interpretation for why male- and female-majority groups often do not produce very different outcomes, despite the fact that gender differences in preferences seem quite reliable.

It is also worth noting that our evidence comes from contexts that we designed to create a straightforward relationship between the types of preferences often found to differ by gender and the unidimensional policy domain over which people vote. A natural open question is whether such differences persist in other contexts—for example, when the relationship between gender gaps in preferences for risk, competition and equality do not line up to predict concordant directional effects on policy preferences. Our work thus highlights the need for more careful study of precisely how gender differences scale up and persist over time to shape firms, institutions and societies.