'Misperception' About Losing Social Status Driving Increase in White Mortality Rates, Researchers Claim

'Misperception' About Losing Social Status Driving Increase in White Mortality Rates, Researchers Claim
Man wears a hat with President President Donald Trump's campaign slogan (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Mortality rates for white Americans have increased in the last two decades, and a new study from the University of Toronto concluded that these “deaths of despair” can be attributed to the view — the “misperception” — that white people are losing their social status. While the study helps shine a light on a potential explanation, its authors seem painfully ignorant of the fact that white people are increasingly demonized based on the color of their skin and the alleged oppression of their ancestors.

“The anxiety of whites is coming from a misperception that their dominant status in society is being threatened, which is manifesting in multiple forms of psychological and physiological stress,” Arjumand Siddiqi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The psychological and physiological stress results in more “deaths of despair” from alcohol consumption, opioid addiction, drug overdose, and suicide, according to the study. To a lesser degree, it may also explain the increasing rates of chronic disease such as hypertension and obesity.

“Status is a major predictor of health so our team hypothesized that it was a perception among whites that Blacks are economically catching up to them, when, in fact, income inequality and other socioeconomic factors continue to affect Black Americans more unfavorably,” Siddiqi added.

“Perceived social status threat offers a compelling, albeit jarring, explanation for rising white mortality because: (a) it explains why white mortality rates are rising, while black death rates are not; (b) it reconciles the effect on white mortality across educational categories, even if the effect is more muted at higher levels of education; (c) it is consistent – if in an unusual way – with decades of population health theory, which has demonstrated the significance of socioeconomic status as a root cause of health outcomes; and (d) it provides a mechanism – stress and anxiety – that can induce the proximal causes of increased white mortality (substance use, suicide, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes),” the study found.

Siddiqi suggested that increasing economic instability has driven many white people to fear that they are losing social status.

“With the very real rise in economic instability over the last several decades, we’d expect mortality rates to rise in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups of all races,” she said. “But this is not the case. Instead we’re seeing a striking reversal among working-age whites, which seems to be driven principally by anxiety among whites about losing social status to Blacks, even in the absence of evidence, which is a newly identified population health phenomenon that requires further research.”

The study also aimed to find a link between Republican vote share and increasing white mortality rates. “Survey data show that voting for Trump was associated with anxieties about growing racial diversity within the United States, and an increase in the interdependence of the United States with a broader globalizing world.”

The study analyzed county-level data, showing that “from 2000, at the start of the rise of white mortality, to 2016, there has been an increase in the proportion of Republican voters.”

There are many reasons for the increase in Republican voters, and it seems oversimplistic to attribute Trump’s electoral success to growing fears about white people losing social status. However, this correlation makes sense in light of increasing trends in journalism, media, and education portraying white Europeans as evil colonizers and people of other races as their innocent victims.

It seems likely that this fear of whites losing social status has less to do with concrete numbers comparing the economic status of white people with other races and more to do with the increasing assault on the Western heritage and Europeans in general.

From high school textbooks to college curricula, students are increasingly being taught a false narrative about history. Writers like Howard Zinn have demonized the founding of America, and The New York Times recently launched a project redefining American history — saying it begins with the first slaves brought to Jamestown, rather than the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

A University of Wisconsin professor explained that his students seem to think the United States invented slavery, despite the fact that slavery is an evil nearly universally practiced by early human cultures. In 2016, students at Stanford rejected a proposal to resurrect a class on Western Heritage, after the class had been dropped from the curriculum in 1988. Also that year, George Washington University removed a requirement that history majors study U.S. History.

In August 2018, The New York Times hired Sarah Jeong to its editorial board, despite her long history of tweets attacking “white people” for the color of their skin. Earlier that year, the Times had rushed to drop tech journalist Quinn Norton over her tweets, which used derogatory slurs for gay people and African Americans.

Examples of anti-white bias on college campuses are legion. A state university hosted a “stop white people” training for resident assistants. Students at the University of California-Berkeley actually shut down a bridge, allowing racial minorities to cross but barring any “white people.” Even away from campuses, in the town of Oak Park, Ill., a trustee shouted down one of her colleagues because he is a “white male” and therefore can have no opinion on oppression.

In fact, the social justice view of “intersectionality” — the idea that certain minorities such as LGBT people, black people, women, and others have been historically oppressed and therefore people who fit into more historically oppressed categories should have more moral authority to speak — has so dominated academia that three academics were able to publish fake and outlandish academic studies.

“While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under consideration,” the academics explained. One paper, published by the journal Sexuality & Culture, argued that men should “anally self-penetrate using sex toys” in order to combat homophobia and transphobia. Another, published by the journal Fat Studies, argued that becoming morbidly obese should be praised as “fat bodybuilding.” A third, seriously considered by the journal Hypatia, argued that professors should sort their students in terms of “privilege,” and make white students sit on the floor in chains.

The study fell apart when one of the hoax papers started receiving awards for excellence.

Earlier this year, a study found that classes on “white privilege” do not make liberals or conservatives more sympathetic to the plight of black people. Rather, they make liberals less empathetic to poor whites, and more likely to blame them for their own poverty.

In light of all this, it seems rather likely that when white people suffer from increased mortality rates because they fear a loss of social status, they are not also suffering from “misperception.” Rather, they are witnessing with open eyes the increasing demonization of white people.

While the intersectionality narrative is demonizing white people in particular, the right response is not to endorse some sort of white nationalism or white pride. Rather, Americans should take stock of their heritage and embrace the Western ideals that birthed liberty, free markets, and scientific discovery. These ideals were mostly developed by people now described as white, although many of them were not considered white until recently (like Greeks, Italians, my Irish ancestors, and others).

For millennia, human history was dominated by tyranny and poverty. In the West, thanks in large part to Christianity and the influence of ancient philosophy, new ideas slowly took root. Universal human dignity, property rights, the rule of law over the powerful as well as the powerless, and the impetus to discover how God made the world helped bring about a new way of living. The freedom, knowledge, and prosperity introduced by the Western heritage have made life incomparably better for millions of every race and creed.

Yet the Western heritage was never perfect. Many of these ideas developed as scholars rebuked the rapaciousness of kings. For instance, ideas of natural law and international law were developed by scholars at the School of Salamanca in Spain — scholars who openly rebuked the Spanish kings and conquistadors who enslaved the natives of the Americas.

Oppression was not unique to the West — indeed, like slavery, human sacrifice was horrifically common in the ancient world, from Africa to South America to Europe. Yet the modern rejection of slavery, the development of capitalism and science, and the growth of a new form of representative government we now hail as “democracy” are unique to the West, and have spread across the world.

The Western heritage should be championed not because its original heroes were “white” but because it has benefitted people of all races across the globe. Indeed, it is tragically telling that modern social justice warriors reject the Western heritage merely because it can be associated with the evils of “whiteness.”

If “deaths of despair” are caused by a threat to white social status, this is it. Academics and the media should take this threat seriously, rather than merely dismissing it as a “misperception.” If the Western heritage is rejected, white people won’t be the only ones to suffer.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.