Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame) has a new book out called Coming Apart. In it, he makes an argument that class lines in recent decades have solidified such that the upper class and working class don’t understand each other’s lives anymore.
He has a quiz which he says will give the responder an idea of his own ignorance of working class life and also an idea of how widespread that ignorance reaches within his circle of friends. Here is the 25 question quiz. Some of the questions seem really fuzzy to me as my idea of a close friend is probably different from other people’s idea of a close friend, and some of them seem like regional questions. But in general, a quiz taker will probably understand the thrust of his questions.
Living in the south and considering the places I’ve been and things I’ve done for work , I would have thought my score would be rather higher. I scored a 25 which would put me as slightly more isolated than the typical first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. But as this test and book was probably more geared toward describing whites, I think some of the bubble effect is related to my racial/ethnic background. Regardless of the reasons, it’s true that I haven’t often encountered individuals from other stations in life. Until recently, I didn’t hang out with anyone without at least a college degree, much less be able to call one of them a close friend. That has changed within the past several years, but only in a technical sense as the friend I’m thinking of was prevented from attending college for documentation reasons and not because she was unwilling or unable to finish the coursework.
How thick is your bubble and how well do you think you understand the lives of working class people?