Charles Murray has a new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. You might remember him as the coauthor of the Bell Curve which, as I remember, did not get much respect from empirical micro people.
Whether the new book is interesting or not, the promotion materials come with a quiz. Here's what happens when I take it:
1.Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your ﬁfty nearest neighbors did not have college degrees?
Seven points maximum. Score 4 points if you answered “yes” plus a bonus point for every ﬁve years you have lived in such a place up to ﬁfteen years.
This was true in the neighborhood I grew up in. On my street, for example, the most educated people, other than my parents (who had a B.Eng. and B.S., respectively) were high-school teachers. Colonel Hill across the street, an alcoholic, had a high school education, the next-door neighbor was a retired farmer, and in the family two doors down, the father drove a gasoline transport truck (often parked in front of the house), and the mother had a lower-level job in a mental health institution. In the latter two families, it is not clear if any of the adults had even finished high school.
2. Did you grow up in a family in which the chief breadwinner was not in a managerial job or a high- prestige profession (deﬁned as attorney, physician, dentist, architect, engineer, scientist, or college professor)? Seven points maximum. Score 4 points if you answered “yes” and 3 bonus points if the chief breadwinner for most or all of your childhood was in what you consider to be a blue-collar job.
I get zero here. My father was an engineer.
3. Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community under 50,000 population that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Seven points maximum. Score 5points if you answered “yes,” 6 points if the place was under 25,000, and 7 points if you lived in a town of fewer than 10,000 people or in a rural area.
Bingo. About 10,000 in Cobourg, Ontario at the time: 6 points. But I actually lived in the township, outside of town, so 7 points. I went to school with many people who lived on farms.
4. Have you ever lived for at least a year in the United States at a family income that was close to or below the poverty line? You may answer “yes” if your family income then was below $30,000 in 2010 dollars. Graduate school doesn’t count. Living unemployed with your family after college doesn’t count. Seven points maximum. Score 5 points if you answered “yes” and two bonus points if you experienced poverty both as a child and as an adult.
5 points here. Though my father seemed busy with an engineering consulting business, he had a pet project - the local radio station - which he owned and poured his own money into. In spite of siphoning much of his consulting income into this operation, Radio CHUC, Cobourg Ontario, ran on a shoestring. One of my father's former employees who came to my father's funeral told me that his paycheck bounced more than once.
5. Have you ever walked on a factory ﬂoor? Six points maximum. Score 2 points for “yes,” 4 points if you have ever had a job that entailed routine visits to factory ﬂoors, and 6 points if you have worked on a factory ﬂoor.
Not only did I work on several factory floors, I also did hard labor out of doors. I was a union member. Why didn't he add points for that? 6 points.
6. Have you ever held a job that caused something to hurt at the end of the day?
Six points maximum. Score 3 points if you answered“yes,” add 2 bonus points if the job lasted longer than a summer, and a bonus point if you’re talking about a job that made you ache all over.
I had three different jobs that hurt badly (stacking concrete blocks, sanding gun stocks, loading meat). Loading meat (quarters of beef) made me hurt all over. 4 points.
7. Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian? Four points maximum. Score 2 points if you answered “yes,” and 4 points if you are an evangelical Christian yourself.
My closest friend in the world, my sister, is indeed an evangelical Christian. She also holds a math degree from McGill University. What do you think of that? 4 points.
8. Do you now have a close friend with whom you have strong and wide-ranging political disagreements? Four points maximum. Score 2 points if you have one such close friend, 4 points if you havemore than one, but not if they are disagreements within the same side of the political spectrum (no points if you are a liberal who has an ultraliberal friend or a conservative with an ultraconservative friend).
This is a bit of a strange one. My brother is a conservative, Roman Catholic Albertan. I have strong and wide-ranging disagreements with him, but these are not voiced. We are very tolerant of each other, which I think should qualify me for bonus points. But I'll just take 4, as I certainly have many friends like this - some famous ones even.
9. Have you ever had a close friend who could seldom get better than Cs in high school even if he or she tried hard? Score 4 points for “yes.”
My friend Bob Dawe was a C student, though I think he eventually graduated high school. Sadly, I heard the other day that he had died. Score 4 for Smiley.
10. During the last month have you voluntarily hung out with people who were smoking cigarettes? Score 3 points for “yes.”
My son smokes. I don't like it, but I tolerate it, and the smell of cigarette smoke does not actually bother me. My friends all smoked where I grew up (including Smiley). Score 3.
11. What military ranks are denoted by these ﬁve insignia?
On this one I have no idea: zero.
12. Option 1: Who is Jimmie Johnson? Three points maximum. Score3 points if you identiﬁed Jimmie Johnson as the NASCAR driver.Score 1 point (consolation prize) if you identiﬁed him as the for-mer coach of the Dallas Cowboys (the coach spells it
Jimmy, not Jimmie).
Don't know who this is: zero.
Option 2: Have you ever purchased Avon products?
Score 3points for “yes.”
14. During the last year, have you ever purchased domestic mass-market beer to stock your own fridge? Score 2 points for “yes.”
15. During the last ﬁve years, have you or your spouse gone ﬁshing? Twopoints maximum. Score 1 point for “yes” and 2 points if you or your spouse go ﬁshing more than once a year.
No, I don't go fishing. I've paddled canoes frequently though, so what about that? Zero, though, I guess.
16. How many times in the last year have you eaten at one of the following restaurant chains? Applebee’s, Wafﬂe House, Denny’s, IHOP, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, T.G.I. Friday’s, Ponderosa Steakhouse. Four points maximum. Score a point for each time you ate at one of them up to 4.
I ate in a Chili's in an airport during the last year: 1 point.
17. In secondary school, did you letter in anything? Two points maxi-mum. Score 2 points if you got any high school varsity letter except for the debating team or chess club. Score 2 points if you were a cheerleader or in the marching band.
I'm giving myself 2 points for marching band. I was in the band, which was mostly a concert band, but on rare occasions we did march. I was actually in a marching band at Queen's University, so that makes me feel better about the 2 points. Note here that my school had no "letters," nor did it have a debate club, or a chess club.
18. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club,or a meeting at a union local? Score 2 points for “yes.”
My father was a proud member of the Rotary Club, and took me there on several occasions. I even went to a Rotary convention in Maple Leaf Gardens with my father. 2 points.
19. Have you ever participated in a parade not involving global warming,a war protest, or gay rights? Score 2 points for “yes.”
Yes, our school band once played in the Cobourg Santa Claus Parade, on a float (of sorts). 2 points.
20. Since leaving school, have you ever worn a uniform? Two points maximum. Score 1 for “yes,” a bonus point if you did so as part of your job, and a third point if it was while you served in the armedforces.
What about coveralls? I wore those in the meat plant. What about a hard hat? Wore that. What about safety goggles? Wore those too. What about a hair net? That too. Zero points on this one though.
21. Have you ever ridden on a long-distance bus (e.g., Greyhound,Trailways) or hitchhiked for a trip of ﬁfty miles or more? Two points maximum. Score 1 point for having used each form of transportation.
I have taken trips on buses, and hitchhiked extensively in the 1970s. One trip I made a number of times in 1972-73 was from Cobourg Ontario to the University of Western Ontario - about 200 miles one way for weekends to see my then-girlfriend. Richard Moses and I hitched from Cobourg to Newfoundland (ferry from Cape Breton included) and back once.
23. During the 2009–10 television season, how many of the following series did you watch regularly? American Idol, Undercover Boss, The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, House, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men, The Ofﬁce, Survivor.
Four points maximum. Score a point for each series up to 4.
House, The Office. 2 points.
24. Have you ever watched an Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Judge Judy show all the way through?
Four points maximum. Score 1 point for each of the three for which you have watched an entire episode and a bonus point if you watch any of them regularly.
25. What does the word Branson mean to you? Four points maximum. Score 2 points if you knew that Branson is a big entertainment center in the Midwest, and 4 points if you’ve gone to Branson yourself.
This is easy. I live in Missouri. I know what it is. 2 points.
My total: 55
Some of the questions made specific reference to the United States, but what the heck, Canada is about the same as that anyway.
According to Murray, I could be:
1. A lifelong resident of a working class neighborhood: 48-99 with typical score of 77.
2. A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents: 42-100 with a typical score of 66.
Actually, as mentioned above, both of my parents had bachelor's degrees from McGill University. My father was an engineer, my mother a chemist. On my mother's side of the family, by grandfather had a medical degree, and my grandmother had a B.A., both from McGill University. My father's parents were working class Montrealers. Thus I would not call us working class. We were rich in human capital, worked like everyone else, and sometimes did not have much income. Thus, I had to work at low-skilled jobs to get myself educated. Currently I live in a relatively wealthy neighborhood in St. Louis, and I believe I am in the top 1%.
Kind of a silly test, right?