Attempts to explain what the hell happened on Tuesday have been coming fast and furious. Hillary Clinton was touted by her supporters as the most qualified candidate ever to run for president. How could she have possibly lost to a buffoon who is not only a political novice but also a despicable bully, nasty racist, world-class grifter, and deranged sex criminal?
Racism was certainly an important factor. A slew of studies have found that Trump supporters rack up high scores on measures of racial resentment. Sexism, too, is part of the story. Hillary Clinton was subjected to a nonstop barrage of ugly misogynist attacks by Trump, his supporters, and users of social media. No wonder the gender gap—24 points—was the largest in the history of presidential elections. And if you still question whether racism and misogyny played a significant role in this election, the many frightening acts of violence and harassment aimed at women and people of color that have occurred in the wake of Trump’s victory should quell any remaining doubts.
But as is the case with every election, Tuesday’s outcome was multi-causal. I would like to identify an additional culprit: economic inequality, or more specifically, economic inequality among women. Women of color supported Clinton by wide margins–understandably so, because the Democrats have historically cared a lot more about their interests than the Republicans have.White women, however, flocked to Trump by a substantial margin and were crucial to his victory. Yet not all white women supported Trump: There was a yawning class divide in their vote. One widely used proxy for the working class is adults who lack a college degree. And while white women who are college-educated supported Hillary over Trump by 6 points, their white, non–college educated counterparts chose Trump by a margin of 28 points. That added up to a cavernous class gap among this group—34 points, 10 points more than that record-setting gender gap.