The Star-Ledger reports that a record 9,500 students in New Jersey declined vaccinations in the 2015-16 school year, according to the state health department. That’s a 600% increase since a decade ago. According to the county-by-county breakdown, the highest number of refusals — almost 5% — were in Hunterdon County, where 92.36% of residents are white. According to census data, Hunterdon is the “fourth-highest county in the country based on median household income.”
In other words, Hunterdon has the same demographics as many who participate in the opt-out of testing movement.
There’s been much written about the demographic similarities between anti-vaxxers and anti-testers. Read Kevin Huffman, for example, who describes the self-serving “logic” behind refusing vaccinations for one’s children:: if everyone else’s kids are inoculated, my kids are safe because of the impact of “herd immunity.”
Here’s how herd immunity works: vaccinating enough community members against diseases greatly reduces the potential of outbreak, ensuring that the weakest members of the group are protected. When a critical mass refuses vaccinations, the herd immunity goes down and diseases are allowed to flourish. Those diseases then disproportionately target the poor and the sick.
The same principle holds in a handful of states where white populists are undercutting education for poor and minority children by opting their own children out of standardized tests.
This past year in New Jersey and New York, the vast majority of the opt-outs happened in white, liberal communities. In New Jersey, almost all the heavy opt-out districts were white and liberal. In New York, the richer the district, the higher the rate of testing opt-outs.
The proof is in the correlation between those who eschew standardized testing for their children and those who eschew vaccinations for their children. As Huffman points out (as well as other researchers), opt-outers cluster in white wealthy districts. So do anti-vaxxers. Need more proof? New Jersey’s five poorest counties are Cumberland, Passaic, Atlantic, Salem, and Camden. The non-vaxxing percentages, respectively, were 1.5%, 1.7%, 1.8%, 1.3%, and 1.2%.
Opt-out is SO white.