The Family Prosperity Index and the 2016 Presidential Election

Posted by Dr. Wendy P. Warcholik - 2016-11-11 17:03:00

The word "stunning" has appeared in countless media reports since Donald Trump's presidential election victory this week. Almost no one among the mainstream press, pollsters, or other political prognosticators saw it coming, and now all of them are scrambling to understand how it happened. They've belatedly trained their microscopes on white working-class voters in the Rust Belt for clues they missed in the months - and years - leading up to Tuesday night. What they don't realize is that a trove of evidence was right of front of them all along in the pages of the Family Prosperity Index.

No other data-driven tool comprehensively measures the intersection of the kinds of social and economic factors that have a direct impact on personal well-being and family - and, thus, community - prosperity. The FPI looks at the inter-relationships among 57 variables - everything from personal income to educational attainment, from single-parenthood to property rates, from entrepreneurship to religious attendance, and many more - and combines the data into a score for each state. It then ranks the state's according to how well they provide an environment for families and communities to prosper.

While these rankings aren't necessarily predictive of which candidate will win a particular state, they do illustrate how the combination of these factors affects voters' sense of well-being. These perceptions aren't limited to people living in low-ranking states, as evidenced by a poll taken on Monday, a day before the election: 63% said the country was on the wrong track, 30% said it was heading in the right direction.

There's a desire on the part of the media and other Hillary Clinton supporters, particularly those marching in the streets in protest of Trump's election, to paint the electoral outcome as a "whitewash," a triumph of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Others diagnose the Trump election as an expression of purely "economic anxiety" likely best treated with more government aid programs. The truth lies at the nexus of the social AND economic factors at play in a large swath of the country that feels forgotten by the political, corporate, and cultural elites whose reactions to the election demonstrate they still don't get it.

About the Author

Dr. Wendy P. Warcholik
Dr. Wendy P. Warcholik has worked as an Economist in public policy settings for nearly 20 years. She has extensive experience in applying statistical and econometric tools in public policy paradigms.