Social Capital and the Opportunity Gap

More on Robert Putnam and his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, on the class gap in raising children.  The Chronicle of Higher Education tells about how Putnam came upon his thesis and conducted his research.  The article also tells about the neo-traditional “Ozzie and Harriet” families that have come back in middle class families, even as working class families are often abandoning marriage altogether.  It also talks about the religious gap, with middle class families taking their kids to church, while working class families are abandoning churchgoing altogether.  (We’ll be talking further about this last point.) [Read more...]

Whatever happened to working class families?

Robert Putnam’s book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis continues to get attention.  Michael Gerson has a good discussion of its impact, excerpted and linked after the jump.  The problem being documented is that whereas a new traditionalism in middle class families is paying off in stronger marriages, better parenting, and successful young people,  in the working class–white no less than black– families are in a state of collapse, with more and more people refusing to get married at all, single parenting becoming the norm, children being left to fend for themselves, and when they grow up experiencing all kinds of problems.

As Putnam documents, things didn’t used to be that way.  Lower income Americans used to have strong families.  Economic struggle is and always has been a problem, but that doesn’t account completely for the current family collapse and other dysfunctions.  Something cultural is going on.  For one thing, as we’ll be blogging about, church attendance in this demographic which wouldn’t seem to be connected to economic problems, has plummeted.

College educated kids, though exposed to postmodernist ideology and pop culture at its most destructive, seem for the most part to be turning out all right.  But the less well educated, who presumably are not being so exposed to cultural nihilism, are becoming cultural nihilists.  What do you think is going on? [Read more...]

Americans who want everything

A major opinion poll has found that Americans want BOTH more government spending AND lower taxes.  Also legalized marijuana.  When it comes to religion, the poll shows the vast majority of Americans believe in God, with only 3% being atheists; and yet 21% say they have no religion.

How can people who want EVERYTHING, including what is contradictory, govern themselves? [Read more...]

Diversity and Empire

Which is better?  A society characterized by cultural diversity?  Or a society in which its many different kinds of people are assimilated into a single nation characterized by cultural unity?  Today, the former view dominates, but the goal through most of history throughout the world has been the latter.  More to the point, cultural diversity has always been the characteristic of an empire.  Republics have always been built around national unity.  The Claremont Review of Books discusses a new book on diversity, William H. Frey’s  Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America, delving into these topics and other provocative questions:  such as, how will affirmative action laws work when white people become the minority? [Read more...]

It’s the family, stupid

Before Robert Putnam there was Patrick Moynihan, the social scientist and later Democratic Senator from New York, who pointed to the dire social and economic consequences when children are not raised by intact families.  His research to this effect came out 50 years ago.  He was studying African-Americans, who back in 1960 had a birthrate to unmarried mothers of 23.6%, which Moynihan believed kept them trapped in poverty, crime, and bad schools.  Today, the unmarried birth rate of all races is more than twice that.

George Will discusses Moynihan’s findings and gives some striking quotations. [Read more...]

Not secularism but pluralism

Several decades ago, sociologists were writing about how modernization was accompanied by the rise of secularism.  Today, so-called “secularization theory” has been abandoned, including by its former advocates such as Peter Berger.  I came across a trenchant quote from him that defines the new issues.  From Eboo Patel in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The 1960s-era academics who advanced secularization theory confessed their errors long ago. As the sociologist Peter Berger told The Economist in 2007, “We made a category mistake. We thought the relationship was between modernization and secularization. In fact it was between modernization and pluralism.”

[Read more...]


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