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Gordon Hanson on populism and economic shocks | Project Syndicate

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“Is it culture or economics? That question frames much of the debate about contemporary populism. Are Donald Trump’s presidency, Brexit, and the rise of right-wing nativist political parties in continental Europe the consequence of a deepening rift in values between social conservatives and social liberals, with the former having thrown their support behind xenophobic, ethno-nationalist, authoritarian politicians? Or do they reflect many voters’ economic anxiety and insecurity, fueled by financial crises, austerity, and globalization?

Economists have produced a number of studies that link political support for populists to economic shocks. In what is perhaps the most famous among these, David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, and Kaveh Majlesi – from MIT, the University of Zurich, the University of California at San Diego, and Lund University, respectively – have shown that votes for Trump in the 2016 presidential election across US communities were strongly correlated with the magnitude of adverse China trade shocks. All else being equal, the greater the loss of jobs due to rising imports from China, the higher the support for Trump.”

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