One of my central propositions in Coming Apart, a book I published in 2012, was that a high-IQ, highly educated new upper class has formed over the last half century. It has a culture of its own that is largely disconnected from the culture of mainstream America. I could expect that many of my readers would be part of that new upper class. The problem that stumped me for a while was how to convince them that their isolation is real.
Eventually, I decided to try self-recognition. And so chapter 4 of Coming Apart was titled “How Thick is Your Bubble?” and contained a twenty-five item quiz that let readers see for themselves where they stood on a hundred-point scale. The lower their scores, the thicker the cultural bubble that separated them from the lives of ordinary Americans.More here:
A few months after Coming Apart was published, Paul Solman interviewed me for his regular feature on PBS’s NewsHour,“Making Sen$e.” Paul and his staff also created a version of the bubble quiz that could be taken online. Just two weeks ago, Paul interviewed me again and the NewsHour website posted an updated version of the bubble quiz. As I write, more than 47,000 people have posted their scores. Along with their scores, most of them also reported their ages, current zip codes, and the zip codes where they lived when they were ten years old.
Murray estimates that the mean for a nationally representative sample would be 44, with a lower score indicating more isolation from, and ignorance of, mainstream culture and experiences. When Murray analyzed scores from those who took the quiz online through PBS, he found that elite enclaves from Manhattan to Silicon Valley — and even Austin — had median scores ranging from 12.5 to 24.5.
When I took the quiz myself, I received a 50 — in spite of graduating from an elite school (Claremont McKenna College on an Army ROTC scholarship) and whiffing many of the pop-culture questions dealing with the likes of NASCAR and television.
Curious, I asked my colleagues at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a state-level conservative think tank, to take it. My hunch was that they would score pretty close to Murray's national mean of 44.
In fact, they had a median score of 50...
My bet is that most national think tanks inside the Washington Beltway would have a Bubble Quiz score more Manhattanite than Middle American. I advanced this theory when I circulated TPPF's results in an office email, prompting a colleague to reply, observing:I agree with you about the DC-based think tanks. During my nearly 13-year DC experience, I purposely spent every bit of vacation back here in God's Country [Texas] because I saw the bubble and didn't want to get sucked in. I keep a copy of Dr. Codevilla's book, "The Ruling Class," in my office to remind me about that bubble. And shop Walmart (1/2 the price of Target).