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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A fascinating explanation for why white America has become fractured and divided in education and class, from the acclaimed author of Human Diversity.
“I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.”—David Brooks, New York Times
In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.
Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.
The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.
The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.
Comparing today's class divisions to 1963 conditions, American Enterprise Institute scholar Murray depicts a pernicious erosion of common culture, restricting his analysis to non-Latino whites. Murray builds on research, including statistically based arguments linked to IQ, advanced in 1994's controversial The Bell Curve, to describe the creation of a culturally distinct "new upper class" and its concomitant "new lower class" in places like Austin, Tex.; Manhattan; and Newton, Iowa or the semifictional composite neighborhoods of Belmont, Mass., and Fishtown, Pa. Figures and trends analyzed here lend insight into undeniably massive changes in American society, while more anecdotal evidence (such as Murray's memories of early 1960s Harvard) is open to subjective qualification. Of course, the picture of a snobby and self-selecting, interbreeding class of largely white, highly educated professionals living in "SuperZips" (the top zip codes in terms of advanced education and income) leans on well-worn images of neo-yuppiedom. While Murray insists he's more interested in describing the "nature of the problem" than the causes, his argument would be stronger if it didn't lay so much of the problem at the feet of a self-segregating "new upper class" and its rising incomes and distinct tastes and proclivities. Though it provides much to argue with, the book is a timely investigation into a worsening class divide no one can afford to ignore.