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America's working class is quickly going the way of yesterday's welfare class, and we hardly talk about it. In my monthly Indianapolis Star column, I highlight Charles Murray's new research showing the profound, and disquieting, trends that now define America's working class white population.
The main points are these:
- Marriage is crumbling in the working class. In the 1960s, working class and upper middle class people married at high rates (in the mid to high 80% range). Now less than half of working class people marry.
- Unwed childbearing is taking over the working class. Half of births in the working class are now to unmarried women, whereas only 6% were 40 years ago. The percentage is still down around the 6% range for upper middle class women.
- Irreligiosity is on the rise. America is growing more secular overall, but moreso among working class people.
- Industriousness is declining. The ratio of working age men who are detached from the labor force is on the rise. This was a trend before the recession and was happening even in parts of the labor market that were booming.
- Rising crime hit the working class hard. Upper middle class people have experienced virtually no increase in crime rates and victimization over the years. The spike in crime in the post-1960s era hit the lower and working classes especially hard.
Our prevailing notions of "the working class" are practically the reverse of reality today. The solutions to these trends lie far beyond any neat and tidy policy proposal. We are in the midst of a long cultural transition that will be primarily addressed through cultural sources in civil society, our educational institutions, and even the media.
The first step is to raise awareness of just how different America has become in our lifetime.
The whole column is here.