Narrowing the new class divide

In case you missed it, in a New York Times piece last week, AEI scholar Charles Murray continues his exploration of the class divide among whites in America which is described in depth in his bestselling book: COMING APART. In the book Murray demonstrates how America has devolved into a class system where those at the top and those at the bottom barely inhabit the same culture.

Murray suggests "four steps that might weaken the isolation of at least the children of the new upper class":

  • We should get rid of unpaid internships: The children of the new upperclass hardly ever get real jobs during summer vacation. Instead, they get unpaid internships in Congress, think tanks and other places. "Those from the middle and working class, struggling to pay for college, can’t afford to work for free. [Unpaid] internships pave the way for children to move seamlessly from their privileged upbringings to privileged careers."
  • We can also drop the SAT in college admissions decisions: The test has become a symbol of new-upper-class privilege, as people assume (albeit wrongly) that high scores are purchased through the resources of private schools and expensive test preparation programs. Instead, elite colleges should require achievement tests in specific subjects for which students can prepare the old-fashioned way, by hitting the books.
  • Ethnic affirmative action should be replaced by socioeconomic affirmative action: "This is a no-brainer. It is absurd, in 2012, to give the son of a black lawyer an advantage in college admissions but not do the same for the son of a white plumber."
  • We should prick the B.A. bubble: The bachelor’s degree has become a driver of class divisions at the same moment in history when it has become educationally meaningless. We don’t need legislation to fix this problem, just an energetic public interest law firm that challenges the constitutionality of the degree as a job requirement.


Charles Murray is the WH Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is available for interviews and can be reached by contacting Veronique Rodman at
[email protected] or 202.862.4871.

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