Wednesday, January 25, 2012

charles murray on cultural inequality - the "new" american divide

WSJ | America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.

People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.

When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America's core cultural institutions.

To illustrate just how wide the gap has grown between the new upper class and the new lower class, let me start with the broader upper-middle and working classes from which they are drawn, using two fictional neighborhoods that I hereby label Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been home to the white working class since the Revolution).

To be assigned to Belmont, the people in the statistical nationwide databases on which I am drawing must have at least a bachelor's degree and work as a manager, physician, attorney, engineer, architect, scientist, college professor or content producer in the media. To be assigned to Fishtown, they must have no academic degree higher than a high-school diploma. If they work, it must be in a blue-collar job, a low-skill service job such as cashier, or a low-skill white-collar job such as mail clerk or receptionist.

People who qualify for my Belmont constitute about 20% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49. People who qualify for my Fishtown constitute about 30% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49.

I specify white, meaning non-Latino white, as a way of clarifying how broad and deep the cultural divisions in the U.S. have become. Cultural inequality is not grounded in race or ethnicity. I specify ages 30 to 49—what I call prime-age adults—to make it clear that these trends are not explained by changes in the ages of marriage or retirement.

In Belmont and Fishtown, here's what happened to America's common culture between 1960 and 2010.

5 comments:

nanakwame said...

we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. LOLOne cannot step
into the same river twice - African Proverb

nanakwame said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/brooks-the-great-divorce.html?hp Brooks take on the same subject - How many sides to a dice?

CNu said...

Brooks favorably reviews Murray. Where's the news here?

CNu said...

 A Lightning Rod in the Storm Over America’s Class Divide  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/books/charles-murrays-coming-apart-the-state-of-white-america.html?pagewanted=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha28 “Coming Apart,” which shot to No. 5 at Amazon.com immediately upon
publication last week, has certainly prompted much conversation, if
little in the way of consensus. David Brooks, a columnist for The New
York Times, pre-emptively declared it the most important book of the
year, saying, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so
compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.”


But to critics on the left Mr. Murray’s arguments are just an effort to
change the subject. Defining the problem as one of cultural inequality
instead of economic inequality, as the New York Magazine blogger
Jonathan Chait put it, allows one to start talking about marriage and
industriousness and “steer the debate back onto comfortable conservative
terrain.”

nanakwame said...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/06/charles-murray-book-review.html

Elite Donor Level Conflicts Openly Waged On The National Political Stage

thehill  |   House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) has demanded the U.S. Chamber of Commerce answer questions about th...