Below the jump, a quiz Charles Murray uses to start out his new book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” about the fragmentation of white America. I got the original here, on a site maintained by Murray’s publisher. You’ll have to go there for scoring and analysis.
I scored a 38, which shocks me. If I hadn’t grown up where I did, and wasn’t living here now, I wouldn’t have scored even that high. (e.g., my parents are the only smokers I’m ever around). My bubble is thick indeed. There are some whose bubbles are much thicker. But not many. Here’s what Murray says my score represents:
A second- generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot. Range: 0–43. Typical: 9.
What’s especially interesting, at least to me, is that I would have scored about the same when I was making $40,000 a year and living in Washington, DC. It’s not always a matter of income, but of class markers. Paul Fussell anticipated this in his incredibly bitchy, incredibly insightful 1983 book “Class.” It’s badly outdated now, of course, but still well worth reading (see Sandra Tsing Loh’s remembrance). Fussell anticipated the rise of what he called the “X person” — what Douglas Coupland would later label “Generation X.” These are people who scramble class categories by having cultural tastes that don’t correspond to standard income. I have a friend, an academic whose parents are academics, and who was on food stamps at one point, but who would, by Murray’s measure, score upper-middle class, all because of taste and life experience. So even though Murray’s framework is imprecise when it comes to income, it is still a useful reality check. As I’ve said again and again, the real class warfare in America is not strictly economic, but cultural. The two are connected, obviously, but don’t neatly correspond.
Here are the questions below. Again, click on this link for your scoring and analysis. I’d love to read your scores and what you think about them.
1. Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighbor-hood in which the majority of your ﬁfty nearest neighbors prob-ably did not have college degrees?
2. Did you grow up in a family in which the chief breadwinner was not in a managerial job or a high-prestige profession (deﬁned as attorney, physician, dentist, architect, engineer, scientist, or col-lege professor)?
3. Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community under 50,000 population that is not part of a metropolitan area and was not where your college was located?
4. Have you ever lived for at least a year in the United States at a family income that was close to or below the poverty line? You may answer “yes” if your family income then was below $30,000in 2010 dollars. Graduate school doesn’t count. Living unemployed with your family after college doesn’t count. Take your best guess. For estimating your family’s past income,you should multiply what you or your parents used to make by theinﬂator appropriate to that time. For example, if your dad made$7,000 a year when you were growing up in 1970, you should mul-tiply that by 5.61. He made about $39,270 in 2010 dollars. Youmay estimate the inﬂator for any particular year from these: 1940,15.66; 1950, 9.12; 1960, 7.41; 1970, 5.61; 1980, 2.64; 1990, 1.67;2000, 1.26.
5. Have you ever walked on a factory ﬂoor?
6. Have you ever held a job that caused something to hurt at the end of the day?
7. Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?
8. Do you now have a close friend with whom you have strong andwide-ranging political disagreements?
9. Have you ever had a close friend who could seldom get better than Cs in high school even if he or she tried hard?
10. During the last month, have you voluntarily hung out with people who were smoking cigarettes?
11. What military ranks do these ﬁve insignia represent? [Note from Rod: I can't reproduce them here; go here if you want to see them. I'm betting you'll know whether or not you know the answer, even without looking. Me, I didn't know.]
12. Choose one. Who is Jimmie Johnson? Or: Have you ever purchased Avon products?
13. Have you or your spouse ever bought a pickup truck?
14. During the last year, have you ever purchased domestic mass-market beer to stock your own fridge?
15. During the last ﬁve years, have you or your spouse gone ﬁshing?
16. How many times in the last year have you eaten at one of the following restaurant chains? Applebee’s, Wafﬂe House, Denny’s,IHOP, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, T.G.I. Friday’s, Ponderosa Steakhouse
17. In secondary school, did you letter in anything?
18. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or a meeting at a union local?
19. Have you ever participated in a parade not involving global warming, a war protest, or gay rights?
20. Since leaving school, have you ever worn a uniform?
21. Have you ever ridden on a long-distance bus (e.g., Greyhound,Trailways) or hitchhiked for a trip of ﬁfty miles or more?
22. Which of the following movies have you seen (at a theater or on a DVD)?
Iron Man 2, Inception, Despicable Me, Tron Legacy, True Grit, Clash of the Titans, Grown Ups, Little Fockers, The King’sSpeech, Shutter Island
23. During the 2009–10 television season, how many of the following series did you watch regularly?
American Idol, Undercover Boss, The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, House, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men, The Ofﬁce, Survivor
24. Have you ever watched an Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Judge Judy show all the way through?
25. What does the word Branson mean to you?