The disintegration of the blue-collar family

The American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray published a book in January entitled Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. In the April issue of The American Spectator, William Tucker writes on one of the core concerns raised in the book — that blue collar, white America increasingly is disintegrating culturally, and as a result feeding the welfare-state behemoth:

The cultural earthquake that Murray has brought to national attention in Coming Apart goes as follows: Whatever the causes, the social disintegration that once seemed to apply only to African Americans has now engulfed blue-collar, white working-class communities as well. Men are dropping out of the workforce, single motherhood has risen nearly 50 percent, crime has skyrocketed, religious faith is declining, and the chances for upward mobility are rapidly diminishing. As Murray concludes: ‘The absolute level [of social cohesion] is so low that it calls into question the viability of white working-class communities as a place for socializing the next generation.’

Murray identifies what he calls the ‘founding virtues’ — marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity — that were once shared by all Americans and held us together in a common culture. That culture was still intact on November 21, 1963, the day before the Kennedy assassination that Murray chooses as his benchmark. In graph after graph drawn from the sociological literature, he shows how these four qualities have deteriorated — not among the college educated, who spend most of their time disparaging those virtues, but in blue-collar communities where people are rarely educated beyond high school.

David N. Bass

Communications Director and Grants Officer for the John William Pope Foundation. Views expressed are his own.

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