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Study reveals that today’s elites cluster in out-of-touch urban bubbles

A quiz, created for PBS and taken mostly by its urban, liberal, college-educated audience, has revealed that this audience, mostly Democrats, lives in very rich urban neighborhoods and has a very thick out-of-touch bubble that isolates it from the realities experienced by the general population.

The data, shown in a graph at the second link, demonstrates very starkly that the political elites are the richest but they also are the most isolated.

The important point about the graph is that the top few percentiles are crucial for understanding our cultural divide. The people living in zip codes in the top two percentiles include almost all of those who run the nation’s culture, economy, and politics. And that’s where the bubble scores plunge [meaning they are more isolated].

In other words, there really is an elite at the very top of our income, education, and status hierarchy, and they cluster in just a few areas, and cut themselves off from different people. Moreover, they tend to be children of people of higher status and education.

A hereditary class cut off from the society they rule. Not exactly the Jeffersonian ideal of America. More like the European, Latin, and Asian nations from which many Americans fled.

Anyone who has spent any time living in Washington DC or New York (which I have) and happens to not be liberal (which I am not) has noticed this (I have). This study simply proves it. The so-called educated elites of our society are actually quite ignorant about the society that they have been trying to run. Which explains the election of Donald Trump, as well as their insane temper tantrums protesting his election.

By the way, I just took the quiz and came up with a score of 50, dead in the middle, which makes sense to me. While I am college-educated and spend my time doing intellectual-type things (writing histories and reporting on science and culture), much of my past experience was either working and living in a more blue-collar environment.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

24 comments

  • wayne

    Extremely interesting stuff.
    (I am a fan of a lot of Murrays work although I differ on some things.)

    Rushed through the Quiz, and scored a “62.”
    I’d like to hear what other people are scoring. (I’ll take it again & slower, just to check.)

    My mom was a Registered Nurse (Nursing School for 2 years and pass-the-State-Test) & my dad was a Registered Land Surveyor. ( 3 years of college but no degree, & no degree required at the time, he as well passed-the-State-Test.)
    Nursing (RN) and Surveying (RLS) I believe, now requires a 4 year degree in Michigan and passing the Test… but you can’t just “take the Test” anymore…)

    I have a B.S., M.S., & a State License. (never wanted to “pile it high and deep.” ha)
    2 years for the M.S. & 6K-hours of supervised clinical work for the License. Went to Community College & State University. (Grad school was $89 a credit-hour, that dates me a bit, eh?!)
    My License is sorta obscure now, but my Professional Association is very politically adept & I’ve been grandfathered-in for almost “everything,” in a majority of States.

    Tangentially– BIG fan of Mike Rowe (from dirty-jobs) and all he is trying to do ref- Vocational Education.
    https://ricochet.com/podcast/mike-rowe-taking-one-11/
    We need more Plumbers, Truck Drivers, & Electricians, and less Marxist Gender Studies.

  • PeterF

    I got a 77, typical score for working class upbringing. (Not surprising since my parents divorced when I was nine and the subsequent predictable circumstances.) But a lot of my answers were semi-arbitrary since I moved around so much during my military service.

  • Mitch S

    Speaking of “The Bubble”
    If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth the two minutes.
    Surprisingly it was done by Saturday Night Live, but it’s right on target:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKOb-kmOgpI

  • wayne

    Took it again an received a “68.”
    -looked like there were different questions in part, or at least some alternate sub-questions based on initial responses.

    Shop at Walmart, never been in a Starbucks (who pays $5 for a coffee? It’s $1.29 at the gas station), the nearest Whole Foods is like 45 miles away, my wife drove a pickup (she loved it), and I like Ponderosa Steak house.
    (oh, we call Whole Foods, “whole-paycheck” around here, ‘cuz no ordinary person can actually shop at Whole Foods. To each his own, of course.)

    totally tangential, but really fun:
    Mike Rowe changes lights on the Mackinaw Bridge
    https://youtu.be/zmQgQr9t3kQ

    You couldn’t pay me enough to do that type of work.
    I have no problem paying these folks good money.

  • wayne

    Mitch S:
    Good stuff.

  • wayne

    I knew this sounded familiar…

    Charles Murray: Are You a Snob?
    Murray discussing his “bubble quiz”
    2013. (Is NPR just discovering this?)
    https://youtu.be/MKMbdfbpWvg
    (4:57)

    (tangentially: I am totally opposed to Murray’s more recent “basic guaranteed income” scheme. But I do enjoy his material for the most part. Generally endorse his conclusion’s but differ somewhat on his solutions.)

    There is an excellent 3 hour “In Depth” C-Span interview with Murray, if anyone wants to hear about his other research.

  • Mitch S

    BTW I scored a 25.
    I was born in NYC and live in the NYC metro – yeah I know people deep in “The Bubble”.
    Though you might be surprised how many Trump supporters are here – never saw as many McCain or Romney lawn signs in my area as I saw Trump/Pence signs – that’s why I wasn’t shocked when Trump won, I didn’t expect it from the polls, but the number and enthusiasm of the pro-Trump/anti-Hillary people I met made me wonder if the polls were missing something.

    BTW Wayne, you mentioned your father would have to have a 4 year degree these days.
    My father is a retired electrical engineer. He had a successful career with a BS degree, but nowadays woulds need at least an MS to have the same job(s).
    There seems to be a degree inflation that doesn’t produce better educated graduates, but does benefit the universities.

  • John E Bowen

    Cool stuff! Scored 28. Mom raised on farm, then four year degree and license as RN, later ADON, teaching at comm. college, high school nursing, Masters. Dad raised on ranch, plus following the wheat harvests north to Canada. Met Mom at U of Kansas, four year BS engineering. Working in aerospace, we moved around a lot. Mom bought Avon, so I got some as presents; can’t remember if I ever bought it myself, being stylistically clueless.

    Basically from the Midwest; from that background and from reading Behind the Black, I know about Branson, MO, but also about Sir Richard. I had to answer “__ No idea” to that question.

    I get half my news from Google News, which is to say, from a wide array of sites and viewpoints. The other half is from newspace sites. We’re cord cutters, so no live “TV”.

    For entertainment, it’s just Netflix and Youtube. I don’t feel deprived at all. It is possible this lack of real TV affected my score. Que sera.

  • diane wilson

    49, which seems to put me clearly in their “huh?” zone, based on their questions. My father was a doctor and my mother a registered nurse, so I’m definitely “second generation” middle class, and as a senior software engineer I probably have a look into “upper middle class,” whatever that means. On the other hand, I grew up in rural Arkansas (where WalMart store number 1 opened in the mid-60s), and I spent six years enlisted service in the Navy between my sophomore and junior years of college.

    The survey reminds me a bit of Edward Albee’s play “The Zoo Story” about a chance meeting in Central Park between an executive and a down-and-out character. Out of the blue, the second character asks, “What’s the dividing line between upper middle middle class and lower upper middle class?” The quiz seems to prefer people who would over-analyze that question.

  • Cotour

    My highly educated, Hillary supporting, Trump hating, elite lawyer friend sums it up nicely (from a highly educated, elitist point of view anyway) : The people in America are generally too stupid to chose correctly.

    I generally tend to trust the American rabble myself, in my experience the highly educated begin to think that because they are “highly” educated that they know more about what needs knowing about then the average Joe Blow and Billy Bob Blow.

    Remember Micheal Moore’s speech? https://youtu.be/4lMp_363B2c Moore made the quintessential Joe Blow speech, it was very inspiring to many Trump supporters (Much to his chagrin, the truth bit him in his ample ass. Liberals / Leftists sometimes accidentally tell the truth you know). This elitist attitude to my thinking is wrong, narrow minded, self indulgent, self important and ignorant and is the result of intellectualizing and rationalizing existence and forgetting what in the end its all about, individual freedom. Its how we get the likes of an Obama, of a Hillary and every other do nothing BS spewing useless politician and useless mind numbed citizen. (some of them really are politically dumb and can easily be manipulated by those of the highly educated who specialize in such things. They usually identify as Liberals or progressives, not bad people as a rule, just generally politically confused and confusable.)

    Its how we get “climate change”, the hockey stick, the Global elite, Obamacare, mass illegal immigration and call it good, Sanctuary cities, record murder rates in those cities, “white privilege” and just about every bit of public stupidity under the label of the “highly educated”. They generally have their place but in a much narrower / specialized context.

    My score? 58.

  • Rod kendrick

    57
    Grew up on the farm. Nothing makes you hurt all over than stacking hay bales. However most popular tv and movies are too boring or insulting. Interesting quiz.

  • Joe

    I scored a 46, parents were blue collar, my dad reached as high as middle manager in a dairy distribution co, my mom was a bar maid at one point in her life as I was growing up, one of my sisters was a registered nurse, one of my brothers is in big corporate America, the rest of us are blue collar, driving heavy truck and wrenching on them. I came from a family of seven, my dad worked at one point in his life at four jobs in a ten year period at the same time, not much rest for him.

  • Garry

    An interesting quiz, and a somewhat blunt instrument. I scored 75, mostly because of my childhood, military service, and good timing (for example, just last week I had a conversation with someone smoking, for the first time in years).

    In high school, I fit in with every clique but belonged to none of them; I spent most of the day with the nerds in the honors classes, stayed after school and at competitions with teammates on sports teams, and spent my free periods hanging out with kids of all backgrounds, depending on who was free that day. Even though I never took drugs, I even hung out with the potheads during my off periods (we liked the same music, and discovered we had more in common than any of us had suspected). I worked 8 to 12 hour shifts on weekends, and took a night course at college my senior year because my school didn’t offer calculus, so from very early on I was exposed to people of many walks of life.

    The rest of my life has been similar; I fit in everywhere, but don’t like to spend all my time anywhere.

    Yet, I spent years with very little outside contact, first in Japan, where almost everyone has no real life outside of work, then here in the US, working mostly via e-mail while raising my kids and fixing up my house and yard. At age 50 I’m looking for my first mainstream, non-military job in the US; now that my kids have grown up I feel the need to spend more time face to face with people that I don’t live with.

    I chuckled at the huge emphasis on military service; some of the people I’ve known who lived in the thickest bubbles were in the military. There’s a subset of officers who are 4th or 5th generation college and look down on enlisted people. I was an officer myself, but first generation college, and felt more comfortable with many of the enlisted men than with officers of that type. Some of these “elites” came up with very strange ideas that they were generous enough to share with those of us from the unwashed masses (/sarcasm).

    It wasn’t just some officers who were in a bubble; some of the enlisted men lived in their own bubbles. One of my units was divided into the “rednecks” (and wannabees) who had their country music playing on one side of the maintenance bay, and the “hoods” (and wannabees) playing rap music on the other side. If we didn’t force them to mix many of them wouldn’t have. Some of the more technical fields had their own unique bubbles, often inhabited by both officers and enlisted, and often well out of step with the rest of us.

    I’m surprised the quiz didn’t ask where I get my news; maybe it didn’t come up for me because of the way I answered the questions.

    I pride myself in being able to have an interesting conversation with just about anybody, which to me says more about how thick one’s bubble is than this quiz does. The quiz mainly focuses on how much exposure one has had to middle class America, which has its own bubble of sorts.

  • pzatchok

    Scored a 77.
    Neither parent had a collage degree. Parents divorced and both remarried, mother started a small business with her new husband.
    I was in the Airforce and have since done everything from garbage collecting to carpentry and cabinet making. Now I run CNC machines in an circuit board facility. No collage to speak of.
    Pretty lower middle class.

  • wayne

    Highly interesting input by all!

  • wayne

    Trading Places (1983) Trailer
    https://youtu.be/ZjDbJQKDXCY

  • Chris R

    Score = 30

    I might have a thick bubble, but I can sure as heck see all the way through it.

    Here’s to hoping we can make America, not GREAT again, but AMERICAN again.

  • Steve S.

    55. I’m college educated. Some in my immediate family were. Some were not. I worked in communications which often put me in contact with everything from ditch diggers to CEOs. I read a lot but my hobbies and avocations tend toward the hands on. I’m now conservative but was a democrat until 2000. I feel exactly in the middle as my score would indicate.

  • Ed Gianos

    I scored 36. Don’t know if that’s good or bad.

  • wayne

    How California has become two states
    “Coastal Liberal Elite Policies Hurt the Poor”
    Victor Davis Hanson
    https://youtu.be/UHg0_r2LMEw
    (5:31)

  • For what it is worth, I have calculated the average quiz scores for everyone on this thread, and found that, at least for this very small and totally unreliable sample, the average score is 52, right in the middle of the bell curve. What this suggests is that my audience is not in a bubble, but has a very wide and varied exposure to life.

  • Edward

    Cotour noted that elites tend to think: “The people in America are generally too stupid to chose correctly.

    From the movie “The Giver,” the leader of the dystopian city says: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.”
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435651/quotes?item=qt2280985

    So let’s assume that these sentiments are true. So what. Freedom means having the ability to choose wrong and fail. It is through failure that we learn how to do it right. It is when we try something new that we learn, but if we are always required to do only what is tried and true, then we never advance our knowledge or our abilities. This is why we consider societies (especially in fiction) that have these sentiments as being dystopian societies.

    It is the trials, tribulations, and errors of We the Rabble that allows us to try 300 million new ways to do everything. Those who find new ways to do it advance us and are (usually) rewarded.

    If Elon Musk had been required to launch his rockets the same way as everyone else, then we would not be looking forward to having inexpensive launches. If Bigelow had been required to build space habitats in the standard way, he probably would not be in the business, and we would not be looking forward to having inexpensive destinations in low Earth orbit. If Sierra Nevada were not allowed to try lifting body reentry spacecraft, we would not be looking forward to having inexpensive reusable spacecraft. In all three cases, we would still be counting upon government to provide our space services, and we would be looking forward to another half century of virtually stagnant progress in space.

    For half a century, we have only gotten what government wanted, not what we wanted. That is because we let them be in control and let them decide what was best to spend their own limited resources on (limited to our incomes and productivity, it turns out).

    Instead, we are now seeing dreams, ideas, and plans for the use of space, the likes of which we had not seen since the excitement of the 1960s.

    And that is what we get when elites think that they know better than the rest of us.

    I got 41, which I blame on the college I chose to attend (sorry, Robert, for lowering the average after you completed your analysis). Both of my zip codes, during college, are on the list at the bottom of the article. I took additional classes (but was not matriculated) at another college on the list, and I worked in yet another zip code on the list, if that counts. And, yes, most of those around me think that centralized control of virtually everything is a good idea. Apparently, just by living in and around the disconnected elite we are affected adversely. Apparently the disconnection rubs off, kind of like osmosis. (If you know what Osmosis is, perhaps you, too, are a little disconnected from the real world of the United States.)

  • Cotour

    Exactly Edward!

    “Freedom means having the ability to choose wrong and fail. ”

    Its not for these self appointed “highly educated” elites to choose for everyone or for anyone because of their self identified higher capacity to think or reason. Education certainly has its place in general and I am not disparaging it in the least, but attending a school or university does not indicate someones now special ability to determine other individuals futures.

    Failure and suffering the consequences of those failures is the best teacher in life, its how people learn best. Being shielded from those consequences usually just extends the pain and the potential for harm.

  • Edward

    Cotour wrote: “Education certainly has its place in general and I am not disparaging it in the least, but attending a school or university does not indicate someones now special ability to determine other individuals futures.”

    You are correct on many levels. Education has its place, but many times people do not get the right education yet other people do not get to use their right education.

    The right education is a degree in whatever you end up working in. The more useful degrees are in science, engineering, law, medicine, etc. If you are going to get a degree in history or art, you had better become a historian or artist, otherwise you studied the wrong thing. A few decades ago, they told us that a college degree in anything was worthwhile, as we could get a good job with even an art history degree, but that has proved to be untrue. I once had a dance instructor whose degree was in art history; she did not need a degree for her job, and she could have saved a lot of money by skipping it — as well as opening up a slot at Princeton for someone who could have used a degree.

    Some areas produce more degrees than there are jobs for those people graduating in that field. Astronomy, archaeology, and paleontology are good examples. If you are going to get a job as a scientist in those fields then you had better have done some notable work in school. Literally notable, because you need to stand out from all the others who are graduating in your cohort.

    If you read “The Martian,” Mindy Park is an example of someone who believes that she is not using her master’s degree. I knew another engineer who thought that surveying satellite dimensions (during assembly) was not why she got a mechanical engineering degree, so she transferred to a design engineering group. The Mindy Park character, however, demonstrates the importance of having smart people performing seemingly mundane tasks.

    Park’s master’s degree did not seem necessary for logging photographs of Mars and sending emails to the scientists to tell them that their pictures were in. The considered herself an over-educated Photomat worker. But it was precisely because of her degree that she was the type of person to recognize and investigate an anomaly, and this led her to discovering the important fact that moved the plot forward. ( http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0513729/bio ) It is people like her and Alexander Fleming who are able to make the important discoveries from what would otherwise be mistaken for normal or an error.

    Yet none of this education suggests that anyone is able to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Even penicillin is not, as some 10% of the population is allergic to this seeming cure-all. One-size-fits-all is a concept that solves the producer’s cost problems, not the user’s needs. It fits the government’s desire for control, not the population’s varied lifestyles.

    It is because the elite is disconnected from the rest that he believes that what works for him should also work for everyone else. After all, the elites’ associates like the same solutions, ideas, and mandates, so why wouldn’t the rest of us? The disconnected elite then believes that he is so smart and since he thought of it then it must be right, because if he were wrong, he is too smart to not know it. Further, anyone who thinks that he, the elite, is wrong must necessarily be stupid or anti-whatever. What’s more (does this thought ever end?), he is so smart that he can do the right thing on his own and does not have to share in the solution that everyone else must practice, because the disconnected elite is better than everyone else — the ones who are too stupid to do the right thing on their own. This is why Congress and its staff were originally exempt from Obamacare, until they discovered that they could not afford the supposedly affordable healthcare (Funny that this did not teach the Congresscritters and their staffs that they aren’t as smart as they think they are).

    I know this to be true, because I am very, very smart, and I thought of it. With a score of 41, I may be disconnected just enough to know what is right for everyone else, even though I do not practice what I insist that everyone else do. Get back to work, everyone, while I read more Behind the Black posts.

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