Tuesday, April 12, 2011

America's Class Divide

Conservative policy supremo Charles Murray has a new book coming out about the class divide in America, between the upper-middle class, the 20 percent at the top that is doing fine, and the 30 percent at the bottom that isn't. Reportedly titled "Coming Apart," you could say the book is a sequel to Murray's book about social programs, Losing Ground. There's a great video of Charles Murray delivering the numbers here. Murray has limited his story to white America. Because the story he has to tell is not about race.

Here's the basic message. Back in 1960 about 88 percent of the top 20 percent of 30-49 year-olds was married and about 83 percent of the bottom 30 percent was married. Now it is 83 percent and 48 percent. That's right. Less than half of the working class is now married, but there's hardly been a change in the top 20 percent.

Rick Lowry of National Review extracts the rest of the details from Murray's talk.

  • "In 1960, births to single mothers in the working class were just 6 percent; now they are close to 50 percent."
  • "In 1960, 1.5 percent of men in the upper middle class were out of the workforce; it's 2 percent now. In 1968, the number for working-class men hit a low of 5 percent; even before the spike in unemployment after the financial crisis, it was 12 percent in 2008."
  • Today, "Among the upper middle class, 42 percent say they either don't believe in God or don’t go to church. In the working class, it's 61 percent."

The next thing to do is to decide who's to blame. Well, we conservatives know what to do about that.

But the bigger question is: how do we change the culture so that all Americans can participate as full social members in American society? When you have a big chunk of the bottom 30 percent not married, not working, not contributing to society, you have a society that is not very social.

But then, we conservatives would say, what do you expect? Administration and bureaucracy, the basic logic of the welfare state, are not the characteristics of society, they are the characteristics of an army.

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