curt asked me what i thought about this, which was a comment on this written by charles murray. i had a quick look at kling’s post and murray’s article last week … and then promptly forgot about them. (sorry, curt!) i suddenly remembered about them as i was trying to get to sleep last night, so here i am…
murray’s writing about a topic he obviously knows a lot about and which i know very little — the expanding divide between the upper and lower classes in america, specifically white americans — so take my comments with a grain or two of salt. maybe murray’s already thought about my objections and deals with them in his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010”. i dunno — i haven’t read it.
murray says that the white american upper and lower classes used to be more alike in values — that all white americans really sorta viewed themselves as a kinda big middle class — and that most of the members of both classes shared the same, four core “founding virtues” of all white americans: industriousness, honesty, marriage and religion.
he makes the argument that these four virtues were present at the founding of america and made america what it was — great. he also makes the argument (and he’s got the data to back it up) that these four virtues were shared by most white americans, of both upper and lower classes, as recently as 1960, but that the two classes of whites have been diverging ever since — upper class whites still very much stick to these virtues while lower class whites don’t anymore. he also says that, at least partly because of this new divide in values and behavior, the upper class is out of touch with the lower class and doesn’t care about the members of the lower class as much anymore.
arnold kling suggests that the upper vs. lower class divide is an iq thing due to assortative mating. that doesn’t sound controversial at all to me, and steve sailer points out that this was herrnstein’s idea back in 1971.
what’s bugging me is murray’s data. for instance, he compares the white working class residents of “fishtown” in 1960 and in 2010. well, i gotta ask — were the same sort of whites living in fishtown in 2010 as there were in 1960? in my experience — and i grew up in a large mid-western city with a lot of ethnic neighborhoods — the ethnic make-ups of big-city neighborhoods in america have pretty much NOT stayed the same from 1960 to 2010. and i don’t just mean racially. former italian-american neighborhoods became polish-american became armenian-american, and so on.
murray says he’s not looking at changes due to “ethnic inequalities,” but what he really means by that statement is “racial inequalities.” he knows that whites and blacks and hispanics and asians all have different success rates in modern america, probably due to innate differences between the groups, but he seems to assume that all “whites” are the same.
what i want to know is: which whites were living in fishtown in 1960 and which whites are living there now? are they the same ethnic group? in other words, are the data directly comparable? or were they wasps in the 1960s and russians today? or germans in the 1960s and armenians today? or italians in the 1960s and turks today? not all whites are the same. or today is there a mix of different whites? we know from putnam that any sort of mix of ethnic groups screws things up.
and re. upper-class white america? murray talks about “the neighborhoods where the elites live—places like Northwest Washington, the Upper East Side of New York, the North Shore of Chicago, the western suburbs of Boston, and Beverly Hills.” well, three out of five of those i KNOW are not characterized as wasp neighborhoods (upper east side, north shore and beverly hills).
murray also refers back to the founding population of the u.s. — to the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. well, most of those people were wasps — and they had a very special evolutionary history (also clark). you really almost can’t compare anything that happened with those first settlers to anything that happened post-late-1800s immigration to this country — unless you just compare those early settlers to new englanders today.
not all europeans are the same in capabilities or temperaments or things like industriousness or honesty (for some good reasons for the differences, see the Inbreeding in Europe Series in the left-hand column below).
there’s white … and white.
update 01/14: see also the audacious epigone who finds that most americans still think of themselves as working or middle class, whatever the realtiy on the ground might be.
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