Coming Apart: The State of White America

By Jerry Levine

I am on vacation for a week. I thought rerunning this column by Jerry Levine from four years ago would give us an insight into the rise of Donald Trump and the impending dissolution of the Republican Party. I invite your comments.

-Lloyd Graff

David Brooks of The New York Times writes, “I’ll be shocked if there is another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” Murray writes, “For most of our nation’s history, whatever inequality in wealth between our richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites anyway.” But now, cultural inequality is becoming an insurmountable chasm.

Murray studies only Whites to avoid adding racial inequalities to the mix. He is just reporting what happened, not speculating why. He believes that starting with Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and other social changes that began in the mid to late 1960s (which brought about positive changes: civil rights, women’s movement; and negative changes: drug culture, increased crime, watered down school requirements) our society began to polarize culturally.

In 1960 the phrase “American Way of Life” referred to a culture of shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, plain spoken honesty, hard work and religion. Fifty years later that common culture has unraveled. We have a new upper class with advanced educations, often from elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. And we have a new lower class characterized not necessarily by poverty, but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions.

Most striking are marriage statistics. In 1960, 94 percent of Upper Middle Class (UMC) adults were married. This declined somewhat to 83 percent in 2010. By contrast, for Working Class (WC) adults the decline is more dramatic, from 84 percent married in 1960 down to 48 percent in 2010. And amazingly, one-third of Working Class males  never have married.

Murray identifies two culturally and geographically isolated demographics. In Belmont, the fictional name Murray gives to the town where the top 20 percent live, divorce is low, the work ethic is strong, religious observance is high and out of wedlock births are rare.

While in Fishtown, where the bottom 30 percent live, these values have all collapsed, marriage rates are low and out of wedlock children living with single moms predominate.

Murray believes 1960s social policy fundamentally changed the signals and incentives facing low-income people and encouraged trends that soon became self-reinforcing. Some of Murray’s thinking helped lay the groundwork for President Clinton’s 1996 Welfare Reform Act which stiffened welfare requirements, and then to the surprise of many on the political left increased employment rates.

Also, I believe the women’s movement, which Murray deems a great societal positive that unleashed the talent and creativity of half the population, had the unintended consequence of downgrading working class males. In 1960 WC males, while not earning as much as UMC males, were still the family “breadwinners.” They were relied upon as the sole financial support of the family and took their financial and parenting responsibilities seriously. Fifty years later men may not even be the primary wage earner in two income families, and with the proliferation of single parent families (almost always with the mother), the men are becoming superfluous. This mortal wound to the male psyche may be irreversible and may explain why WC men are becoming less educated less employable. Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute recently reported that nationwide 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because applicants are unqualified.

It’s well known that children of single parent families often do not fare as well in early and later life as those from two parent families. Single moms know that too, but as Murray quotes from his many interviews with Working Class single moms, “I don’t want to marry a loser. Why take on another child?”

Many social scientists say the cause of the collapse of WC men is the economic turn-down and the effects of globalization. But the economy turned downward almost two decades after the cultural changes began, and the downturn only added to the existing trend.

At the end of the book Murray seems very pessimistic and presents no acceptable, practical solutions. Brooks recommends a universal National Service Program which would force members of the upper and lower tribes to live together, if only a year or so. The cross fertilization of values and practices and institutions that lead to achievement would be invaluable. The Belmont residents “need to preach what they practice.”

Question: Is the United States a nation of “haves and have nots,” or a nation of “haves and soon to haves”?

Charles Murray explains his correlation between a decline in marriage and social decay in White America.

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9 thoughts on “Coming Apart: The State of White America

  1. mike

    another good book on this topic was written by VP Dan Quayle 20 some years ago . . . he called out “illigitimacy” as a prime problem.

    lets also try and be honest – the “black” male is now a lost generation . . . or two, or three. just look at the stats.

    education – or lack of. single parent families, the welfare state, loss of initiative and accountability – where do people learn these values: at home and in church. both on the decline.

    tattoos – feel good – get it for free . . . some life. tell them they are bums and you are the bad person. no manners and no morals . . . that is what homes with no fathers have in common.

    with brain dead high paying jobs declining as fast muslim immigigration when Trump is President – what did we think would happen to those with no education and no initiative – they have to be taken care of . . . more disability, more scams, more dead beats.

    what do i expect to happen to me with my pants down around my knees as i run from the cops? pity? remorse? other?

    it is pathetic but true . . . victims, aren’t we all?

  2. rick

    The 1987 “Survey of Youth in Custody” found that 70% did not grow up with both parents. Another 1994 study of Wisconsin juveniles was even more stark: only 13% grew up with their married parents. Here’s the conclusion of Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan, the doyenne of researchers about single parenthood: “[C]ontrolling for income and all other factors, youths in father-absent families (mother only, mother-stepfather, and relatives/other) still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those from mother-father families.”

    Could it be that when you institute policies that encourage out of wedlock births to receive more social service benefits that the unintended consequences of Government meddling keeps raising its ugly head.

    Why must we eradicate any image of the Christian Religion from the public square?

    Oh because of the Crusades, right. My how history is rewritten, the Crusades were in response to the first Islamic invasion. How is Europe faring with this current invasion.

    And on this blog I will keep repeating, in the hopes that some here should agree and understand:
    Automation is HERE! More than 50% of jobs will be eliminated by automation in the next few years. Robots, self driving vehicles, non contact QC, self checkout, RFID, EZpass tolls, self serve kiosks, customer service phone robots, artificial Intelligence.

    You can buy a “roomba” to vacuum your house and another to cut your lawn.

    Please read about
    Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot

    So what will all those who do not educate themselves do to earn a decent living?
    NOTHING !!!
    They will be on public assistance smoking legalized medical marijuana, if not incarcerated. And having more kids for more benefits.
    And those flooding over the border looking for a better life with NO language skills, NO education, and NO marketable skills.

    We can be Venezuela in a few years! Have you seen or read about it down there.
    Probably not, because you never see the stories about FAILING Socialist States!

    Venezuela extends two-day workweek for state employees to save energy

    Venezuela, by all rights, should be rich. …it has more oil than the US or Saudi Arabia. …economic mismanagement has barely left it with enough money to even, well, pay for printing money anymore. That’s right: Venezuela is too poor to afford inflation. IT CANNOT PAY TO PRINT MORE MONEY!

    That is my vision of the future.
    I pray that I am wrong, but as an engineer, looking at facts, past performance and history, unless someone turns things around, tough times they are comin’…

  3. Ed

    Was speaking with a Judge that works in Family Court and his observation is that most of the children he sees are in unstable family situations. If you look at factors which define economic success, the one that stands out as correlating with success is a stable family situation. We are a nation of haves and soon to haves, by making the family a core value again, there can be more haves…

    1. rick

      Unfortunately to do that you must take away free government handouts.
      We have an entire political party that’s only future is promising free stuff to people who do not positively contribute to a civil society.

      We are at a tipping point where 50% of the population is voting to take from the 50% of producers.

      click here to read: Nearly one in six young men (between the ages of 18-34) in the U.S. were either jobless or incarcerated in 2014, according to a new government report. It details a striking amount of male alienation that has been on the rise since the 1980s

      The framers said that our constitutional principals rely on a moral, Christian, and religious society.

      All Communist countries outlawed and eliminate religion and replaced it with worship of the state.

      Though liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith, it bears all the attributes of a religion. The Church of Liberalism, has its sacraments (abortion), its holy writ (Roe v. Wade), its martyrs (cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal), its clergy (public school teachers), its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free), its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the “absolute moral authority” of spokesmen from Cindy Sheehan to Max Cleland), and its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident).

      Then, of course, there’s the liberal creation myth: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

      For liberals, evolution is the touchstone that separates the enlightened from the benighted. The essential truth about Darwinian evolution that liberals refuse to confront: it is bogus science.

      There are so-called gaps in the theory of evolution are all there is—Darwinism is nothing but a gap. After 150 years of dedicated searching into the fossil record, evolution’s proponents have failed utterly to substantiate Darwinism’s claims. And a long line of supposed evidence, from the infamous Piltdown Man to the “evolving” peppered moths of England, has been exposed as hoaxes. Still, liberals treat those who question evolution as religious heretics and prohibit students from hearing about real science when it contradicts Darwinism. And these are the people who say they want to keep faith out of the classroom?

      Liberals’ absolute devotion to Darwinism, has nothing to do with evolution’s scientific validity and everything to do with its refusal to admit the possibility of God as a guiding force.

      “Liberals love to boast that they are not ‘religious,’ which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as ‘religion.'”

      And of course South American Catholicism and Christianity has been hijacked by the “Social Justice” and “Collective Salvation” crowd which is migrating into our entire country…

  4. Joey


    As a church-going, religious Democrat I take exception to a lot of what you say. I agree with the Republican party on a lot of issues, but the intolerance that has become it’s mantra is what is leading it down the path of destruction. It is political death sentence for a Republican candidate to call himself a moderate. I don’t vote down party lines, but I have not and will not vote for someone who can reach across the aisle to work with people of a different political mindset or even those of a different faith.

    I do not agree with the most liberal side of the Democratic party either, as a Christian I believe abortion is wrong, I believe welfare standards should be made more strict, but I am also compassionate toward those who need help, but things need to be changed so people will be forced to actively seek employment. I also believe there should be mandatory drug testing that goes along with any type of welfare.

    Remember not to try to paint people with such a broad brush, we are all Americans and the thing that has made America great is compromise. The Republican party has been known as the party of no for eight years now and is suffering because of it, I can’t think of a stronger case for compromise and unity for all Americans than what the GOP has done to itself.

    God Bless

    1. rick


      Thank you!
      Just as the Democrat party seems to be hijacked by a minority of liberal extremists pushing for abortion upon demand regardless of how late in the term the child is (re-branded as the right to choose or woman’s health.) Gay rights, gay marriage, the forcing of agendas through the courts in direct opposition to the numerous votes of the people. (just wait until the NAMBLA pedophiles and Muslim Polygamists want their rights respected. It is a slippery slope!!!)

      The Republican party has been controlled by the GOP establishment types claiming and campaigning on values and fiscal responsibility only to go to DC, giving everything away and spending like drunken sailors.

      Hence the rise and popularity of The Donald.

      Charity begins at home. We should take care of our own first. The US is the most charitable nation in the world. However charity has checks and balances, if the charity is corrupt or straying from its mission, donations disappear – check & balance. The government is dolling out so much free benefits that many in the Churches I attend & charitable foundations’ members I volunteer for, say: “why should I contribute? The government takes care of that” Hence my previous comments of the destruction of faith based organizations.

      Click here for an example – The average immigrant household draws more than $6,000 from the welfare system in a year, costing U.S. taxpayers 41 percent more than people born in the country, a new study finds.

      Realize that Rep Paul Ryan gave the POTUS his entire budget. No Obamacare cuts, no Illegal immigrant restrictions, etc…
      In my opinion that is not obstruction, that is rolling over and playing dead.

      In terms of reaching across the aisle, should you compromise your principals for the sake of compromise and working together? (so let us negotiate just how much cyanide and arsenic is allowable in baby food?)

      I prefer the obstruction. The less that gets done the less freedom we lose…

      Be safe!


  5. Donnie

    There is so much the people of the U.S. don’t know about the behind the scenes of the political establishments. The same people who control the democrats also control the republicans, so any more there is not much difference between the two. Both spend like drunken sailors like there is no end of the money, One day it will run out and our nation will have an economic collapse. The printing of money with no gold backing it is a recipe for disaster. Paul Ryan is no conservative either, he’s just another John Boehner rubber stamp approval what ever the establishment wants. Our country is going gown the tubes fast, I can see why people elected Donald for the republican party, people are fed up with the same old crap from Washington. As far as Darwinism and evolution goes, I believe in that now as I have found the missing link that’s been eluding us for decades… he’s in the White House now 🙁 But really, If you look at the behind the scenes like I said, you will find the problem, insiders, such as the CFR ( counsel on foreign relations) intertwining us into more and more of the united nation. The climate change hoax that is coming from the UN, look up and read agenda 21, and agenda 2030 on sustainable development, and that’s what the pope talked about when he toured America, In order for the U.S. to turn around we need to kick the UN out of the U.S. and stop funding it. Since we borrow so much money from china only to give it away, why not have the UN get $ directly from china and leave us out. Stop funding the IMF, world bank and all these alphabet soup entities that entangle us in al this crap and drain out money. Talking about money, read the book called “The creature from Jekyll Island” and you will be amazed at how crafty and evil those who started the federal reserve system back in 1913. It is not “federal” and there are no reserves! Can you say deceitful and evil? Its all about power and control of the masses by an elite few. One more thing is the regulations that NAFTA and GATT have had on this country, Now they want to do more regulations, job killers, and more control of every aspect of our lives through wanting to ram the TPP ( Trans Pacific Partnership) down our throats also! Not until we get rid of the insiders will this ever change! I vote ” Hillary for Prison 2016 !!!!! “

  6. Dan Garing

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

    January 20, 1981: From Reagan’s Inaugural Address.


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