The map already warned. Most of the cities and urban centers in the United States were dyed blue when voting for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the presidential elections, while the rest of the territory, mostly rural populations, were painted red when voting for a reelection of President Donald Trump. The results have only underscored the clear division in the richest and most powerful country in the world. The numbers portray a reality that is hard to digest: there are two economies within the United States, with two radically opposite country views that will hardly converge. According to data from the Brookings Institute, an independent Washington-based research and analysis organization, counties that voted for Biden generate 70% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Those who did it for Trump produced only 29% of GDP, less than the 36% they produced in 2016, in the previous presidential election.
“We were surprised by this huge jump between 2016 and today, because it is very difficult to imagine that more than 70% of the economy is concentrated in the urban part of the country,” says Mark Muro, co-author of the study published this week. “This is a photograph of an unbalanced economy, which is not particularly good for anyone,” says the specialist.
The higher a county’s GDP, the more prosperous its population. The concentration of wealth and income in urban centers, at the expense of rural areas, has been going on for at least two decades, explains Muro, a specialist in public policy. However, in recent years, it has been exacerbated with worrying speed. “The boom in technology companies has accentuated these divisions, because they have created highly urban economies in which great wealth has been generated, which could have accentuated the divisions and contributed to this reaction in small towns and rural populations,” he says Wall. And in the meantime, you had Trump manipulating this resentment and frustration. That was definitely a part of these results. “
Since 2016, the Nasdaq index, which concentrates mostly large technology companies, has risen 125%. Since 2016, Silicon Valley – located, by the way, in the highly Democratic state of California – has seen a series of multi-billion dollar valuations of companies like Uber, Spotify and Roku, among others. These resources, disbursed by investors who see a promising future in these companies, do not reach rural populations outside the cities, benefiting mainly a highly educated class and the economies of scale that arise around them within the same cities where they operate.
President-elect Biden, who will take office on January 20, has focused his post-election message on uniting the country, but the challenge is not just ideological. To achieve this, he must find a way to incorporate this large rural population into the country’s project, so that they are a more important part of the economic strength of the superpower.
“What our data says is that the Republican Party increasingly represents the weakest economies in places that are lagging the most in prosperity indicators like GDP,” says Muro. “In fact, seven of the 12 counties with the highest GDP that Republicans won in 2016, this year voted for Biden. So the Republican Party is increasingly a party of America’s small towns and rural areas and not a party of its major urban economies. That was true before, but it became even more true. “
It is possible that the policies that Biden seeks to implement are actually more favorable to the populations that voted for Trump, says Muro, but that will depend on the composition of the Senate, which will not be defined with certainty until January. “Biden is talking about bringing the country back together and his experience in the Senate may allow for some progress to be made on these divisions, but there is no question that the divisions have reached a really alarming level,” Muro says.
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