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How do you perceive the news?

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Popular perception (or, what social psychologists lovingly call confirmation bias) plays a big role in the creation and consumption of news. Checking the data can help us understand how accurate these perceptions are. 

One example is the perceived identity of the “working class”, whose votes were apparently crucial in the 2016 presidential election. A common media narrative typified this group as white, male, Rust Belt dwelling, and employed or trained in heavy industry (factories and farming) and mining.

However, a New York Times article that explored the new working class in the twenty-teens painted quite a different picture. In 2014, less than 10% of the total American workforce was employed in factories or farms. Nine workers from across the United States who worked in jobs that are typical of the present day working class were profiled, among them a home health aide, hair dresser, fast-food worker, and delivery driver, to name a few. The present-day working class is less male, less white, and less likely to have been born in America than the working class we hear about. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nine of the twelve fastest growing jobs are variations of care or nursing roles. Less than 10% of caretaking service workers are male.

The perception of the first working class as described by the media was not wrong; in many cases its conclusions were reached using good data. But it fell short of the full picture. At Thoughtwell, we encourage you to keep looking for data, and keep asking what other perspectives might be out there when you find good data.