*Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis*

by on February 27, 2015 at 12:01 am in Books, Education, History, Political Science | Permalink

That is the new Robert D. Putnam book and it focuses on the widening opportunity gap among America’s young.  Much of the work is narrative and case studies, starting with Port Clinton, Ohio but not stopping there.  Any Putnam book is an event, and this one is the natural sequel to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.  The writing and the underlying intelligence are of an extremely high quality.

One significant theme is that upward mobility results from a mingling of the upper and lower income classes, and such mingling is more scarce than in the immediate postwar era.  You can think of it as case study evidence for the cross-sectional statistical regularities stressed by Chetty et.al.  Contra Chetty, however, Putnam believes that declines in socioeconomic mobility will start to show up in the data as current generations age.

The book’s problem is finding a new note to strike.  Putnam stresses this is a story of social forces rather than personal villains, but, for all the merits of his text, he identifies no new culprits or solutions.  Inequality of opportunity seems to have more to do with parents than schools, but how to control parents?  This book does not flirt with the so-called Neoreaction.  Putnam favors increased access to contraception, professional coaching of poor parents, prison sentencing reform and more emphasis on rehabilitation, eliminating fees for school extracurricular activities, mentoring programs, and greater investment in vocational education; contra Krugman he gives a lot of evidence for skills mismatch (pp.232-233).  More generally, he asks for federalist solutions and lots of experimentation.  Maybe those are good paths to go, but the reader feels (once again) that matters will get worse before they get better.  There is very little on either political economy or the evolution of technology.

Do read this book, but by the end Putnam himself seems to come away deflated from dealing with some of America’s toughest problems.

1 Ray Lopez February 27, 2015 at 12:34 am

Forget about America’s problems and start helping the rest of the world. “One significant theme is that upward mobility results from a mingling of the upper and lower income classes” – I am, in the Philippines, by dating a girl from a poor family, helping in this “mingling”.

2 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:32 am

As the only non-ultra-authoritarian country in Asia that has not significantly benefited from an economic boom in the last forty years, the Philippines needs increased reform and reduced corruption, not any racial takeover of the United States and Western Europe.

3 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 5:21 am

Dennis Rodman’s dad, Philander Rodman Jr., proprietor of the Obama Burger Grill in Manila, has Ray beat six ways to Sunday: he has 26 children.

4 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 5:49 am

I’ve long wondered about the life story of Philander Rodman Sr. It’s probably pretty interesting, too.

5 Ray Lopez February 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

@SS – thanks for mentioning that again; he has 26 more kids than I do. I read on Wikipedia I believe he was a fighter pilot. I should visit his burger joint. I once met his famous son in Vegas and even joked with him. The black-PH combination is a hoary tradition here, but there’s not too many Greek-PH combos, though I’m working on it (there are a few others too, I’ve met some).

6 Larry Siegel February 27, 2015 at 6:11 am

At least his name befits him.

7 Zephyrus February 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Nominative determinism!

8 T. Shaw February 27, 2015 at 11:25 am

You are doing God’s work, Ray.

9 Chip February 27, 2015 at 12:50 am

Is “experimentation” by the government really what’s needed here?

Take a snapshot of any country in the last 100 years and find a time when educational outcomes were flat despite a tripling of spending. It doesn’t happen.

Kids in India with straw roofs are improving but America’s kids aren’t.

Why, what’s different? The collapse of the family. Poor families with underachieving kids are usually broken families. And those kids will start more broken families.

No educational wizardry will fix this. The problem is within the cultural DNA of what’s become a permanent underclass.

10 DPG February 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

“I’d say a majority of my upper middle class classmates at the boutique liberal arts college I attended ten years ago came from “broken homes””

A majority? Really?

11 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 1:33 am

American movie stars tend to have strange, messed-up-sounding upbringings. For example, the Arquette family grew up in a Subud commune (a rightwing Indonesian cult) in Virginia.

English movie stars, on the other hand, these days seem mostly to be Old Harrovians (Benedict Cumberbatch) or Old Etonians (Eddie Redmayne).

12 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm

The Spectator once had a cover illustrating a story on what counted as popular music in Britain ca. 1999. It was a cartoon of a band called “The Four Toffs”. The lead singer was belting out “She loves me Yah Yah Yah”.

13 Thomas February 27, 2015 at 2:15 am

He’s speaking more to Father dearest having mistresses at the various locales of his investments.

14 Thomas February 27, 2015 at 2:16 am

Broken, but wealthy, and that wealth is exactly how a Progressive likes it – 10 generations old. The merchants are uppity low-lifes.

15 Dan Weber February 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

I’ve been in places where I seem like a mutant because my parents are still married (to each other, even).

16 JWatts February 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

I’d be interested in seeing the definition of “broken homes”. I suspect it’s more likely homes with self absorbed parents.

17 Thomas February 28, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Does “broken homes” mean divorced homes, or are upper middle class liberal arts students adept at imagining all sorts of victimization.

18 Thomas February 27, 2015 at 2:14 am

Nope. Teachers in America are having to purchase their own materials for arts and crafts. That’s why America is failing. Because there aren’t enough arts and crafts materials to fill 8 hours of Progressive daydreaming at our schools. (Also, did you know that our teachers have to write, like, 5 page essays to graduate from college. ohemgee, talk about really, really hard.)

19 dan1111 February 27, 2015 at 2:27 am

“Kids in India with straw roofs are improving but America’s kids aren’t.”

The baseline makes a big difference for how easy it is to improve outcomes. See also the world’s fastest growing countries.

20 chip February 27, 2015 at 5:07 am

Yeah but we’re not talking about Indians who are going from owning a cow to working in a shoe factory. They’re running banks and IT companies.

They’re suddenly competing with Americans who used to be generations ahead.

21 Chip February 27, 2015 at 7:11 am

Talent is overrated. Learn the fundamentals of personal responsibility and discipline, mix in a lesson on the importance of determination, and you generally have progress. As long as there is a framework of economic liberty.

People disparage the ‘crammers’ in Asia as somehow educationally stunted but they don’t just do well in their supposedly stunted societies. They move to ours and excel.

You can build the best school and staff it with the best teachers. But if little Johnny doesn’t learn the basic stuff at home, he’s sadly not going to go anywhere.

22 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Ah, so that’s the magic bullet. First, you’ve got to have public schools with children spending 6-8 hours a day in them from 1st thru 12th grade. Then kindergarten has to be thrown in. Now we’ve got to bookend the process with pre-school and college. But apparently all that time and billions of dollars are all for nought if “Johnny doesn’t learn the basic stuff at home,” as apparently the basic stuff is not taught during those 6 to 8 hours he’s away from home.

In which direction are the educrats wanting to head: that students need more time at home or less?

Also, your statements about Asians are rather sloppy. Anglo and European Americans stack up quite well with the rest of the world. The fact that colleges are falling all over themselves to admit more Asians paying out-of-state tuition is proof of not much other than the shortcomings of their own societies.

23 wiki February 28, 2015 at 10:24 am

Yup. Both liberals and conservatives tend to disparage Asian crammers as beside the point. That makes you realize all this race discussion is really intra class warfare among white elites with middle class whites. Both fear Latinos and Blacks as lower class interlopers while fearing Asians as upper class competitors. They’re happy Asians are docile while disdainful of their bourgeois habits.

24 JonFraz February 27, 2015 at 2:41 pm

They are competing with us now because they can– because the technology exists to allow jobs to be outsourced to low wages countries and because the government of India gave up the old socialist dreams of Nehru et al. Fifty years ago neither was true. Indians had to immigrate to the US if they wished to compete with us.

25 Dude February 27, 2015 at 11:12 am

This is an economics blog. Stop with the economics.

26 chip February 27, 2015 at 5:04 am

God, this race crap is getting boring. Race, gender and all the simplistic identity nonsense is really just understanding-the-world-for-dumb-people.

My kids are mixed race by the way and it pisses me off to think people will focus on their skin color. People like you..

27 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Where do you think diversity comes from? Serious question.

28 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 2:58 pm

@chip

29 Larry Siegel February 27, 2015 at 6:14 am

I don’t know about Chip but I would have thought he meant poor whites. Blacks have struggled for a long time; the widespread social pathologies of poor whites seem to me like a new problem.

One of the beauties of being upper middle class is that you can screw up pretty badly and the kids will turn out OK. They are surrounded by good influences. This doesn’t work for the poor.

30 Chip February 27, 2015 at 7:02 am

True, which is why the breakdown of the family had been devastating for the poor.

And the rich might get a buffer from screwing up but it’s not permanent. Screwed up rich people can squander their wealth very quickly.

31 Millian February 27, 2015 at 6:53 am

Kids in straw roofs improve because it is difficult from that position to disimprove. Kids in America are close to the PPF. They could move along the PPF to improve their mental regurgitation ability like kids in Shanghai or Singapore, but the trade-off would be losses of freedom in cognition, and mental health.

Why do the racists always ignore incredibly banal explanations like this one for incredibly banal facts, rather than rushing to blame non-Aryan DNA?

32 Chip February 27, 2015 at 6:59 am

You obviously aren’t familiar with Singapore math.

Regurgitation is not possible.

33 Cliff February 27, 2015 at 9:17 am

Why did you bring race into it? Who is rushing to blame non-Aryan DNA other than you?

34 Clover February 27, 2015 at 9:48 am

Wrong. There hasn’t been much improvement in any class or subculture no matter how intact the families are. Tripling spending means more bureaucracy, more computers and fancy gym equipment, “special education,” lower class sizes, ect.

35 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 1:02 am

The first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

36 dearieme February 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm

The solution was identified years ago.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhstRrZzaso

37 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 1:09 am

The problem with Chetty’s celebrated social mobility map is that it’s mostly a picture of where the blacks (and Indian reservations) aren’t:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/07/breakthrough-study-poor-blacks-tend-to.html

For example, Chetty finds impressive social mobility in West Virginia, but not in Charlotte, NC.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds because it’s based on where today’s youngish people were children back in 1996. Now, West Virginia is pretty wretched, but a fair number of people who lived in West Virginia in 1996 have gotten the heck out of there, often with Charlotte as a destination.

But you have to understand the biases caused by Chetty’s methodology (probably better than Chetty understands them) or you’ll wind up coming to silly conclusions based on his results.

38 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:49 am

I wonder how that map would look if Chetty included foreign countries, not just West Virginia. China and Vietnam would do well.

39 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 10:13 am

Now, West Virginia is pretty wretched, but a fair number of people who lived in West Virginia in 1996 have gotten the heck out of there, often with Charlotte as a destination.

Actually, per capita income and product in West Virginia is about 22% below national means, i.e. quite similar to West European norms and perhaps 12% below what you’d expect given that 90% of the state’s population is small town and rural. The state’s unemployment rate, at 6%, is only slightly higher than national means (5.7%). The homicide rate therein is about 30% below national means. West Virginia is not wretched. West Virginia is very provincial, and some people like that.

40 SPENCER February 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

According to the new real per capita income data released by the BEA that adjust for differences in local area cost of living West Virginia real per capita income in 2012 was 91% of the national average and ranked number 44 against the other 50 states — including the district of Columbia.

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/rpp_newsrelease.htm

41 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Cost of living fudge-factors commonly cover only staple consumption, e.g. housing, groceries, utilities, etc.

42 Jason February 27, 2015 at 12:51 pm

West Virginia has come up as the most miserable state for the fifth year in a row according to Gallup polling:

http://www.eonline.com/news/514260/do-you-live-in-the-most-miserable-state-if-you-live-in-west-virginia-the-answer-is-yes

“The study, called The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, interviewed nearly 200,000 people from all 50 states to “measure physical and emotional health.” Factors included employment, education, health and local environment.

And the most miserable state in the United States is West Virginia! For the fifth year in a row!

“Just 44.87 of residents described themselves as thriving, the lowest in the nation,” the survey explains, noting that West Virginians are also “the least physically healthy…in the nation,” with some of the highest rates of blood pressure and obesity.

Silver lining? West Virginia is tied for the second lowest life-expectancy rate. So you won’t have to be miserable for too long””

43 Lord Action February 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Yeah, but as others have said, Western Europe is probably a fair comparison. WV is poor by US standards, but it’s not actually poor.

The Greenbriar is pretty awesome.

44 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 3:32 pm

What you’ve failed to mention is that West Virginia’s life expectancies in decennial assessments through the CDC and the Census Bureau have since 1980 been a year or two lower than the national mean, which is to say characteristic of the national mean of about a decade earlier. That’s your idea of ‘wretched’?

45 Thomas February 28, 2015 at 3:16 pm

“employment, education, health and local environment.”

Odd. I know a lot of happy people who don’t have advanced degrees, eat unhealthy foods, and do things like burn their trash. I’m not sure what Gallup was measuring here, but it doesn’t seem to be happiness. Maybe theoretical happiness of an urban progressive in a given environment? C’mon.

46 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Yes, but West Virginia is full of white Americans, so it ought to be doing better. West Virginians have, by far, the lowest scores on the NAEP for whites. If you put 8th grade NAEP scores on an IQ like scale, West Virginia whites score 94.3, way behind the second worst state for white students (Arkansas at 97.3).

http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2015/02/2013-iq-estimates-by-state-total-and.html

47 Art Deco February 28, 2015 at 10:46 am

Yes, but West Virginia is full of white Americans, so it ought to be doing better.

Not everyone takes your shticks as given, Steve, and Richard Lynn is a mad treehouse builder.

48 Thomas February 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm

West Virginia is a leader in social justice, Steve.

49 DPG February 27, 2015 at 1:20 am

“he asks for federal solutions and lots of experimentation”

Contradictory, no?

50 SF Chick February 27, 2015 at 3:11 am

Typical Republican. If you even knew Math or Science or Both you would know that Barry. Obama. does sick proofs on the Oval. Office. Chalkboard.

He cares about the right answer to the question, and also Science too. He cares about That. You Flat Earther Idiot – you probably think scientists haven’t proved the big bang happened too, idiot.

51 Al February 27, 2015 at 11:33 am

On the MR troll scale (1 to 10), I am sorry to say that I would rate your attempt a 2.

Because I am an optimist who believes in people, especially those from or in SF (and even those pretending to be from or in SF), I believe you can do much better.

I hope that you will try again soon. You have the passion (whether real or faked) to be a first class troll.

Good luck!!

🙂

52 RIGHTIST February 28, 2015 at 5:15 am

YOU CALL THAT IRONIC TROLLING?!?! WHERE’S YOUR CAPS LOCK BUTTON; DID YOU SELL IT BECAUSE IT WASN’T WORTH THE KEYBOARD SPACE ROI?!?!

I USED TO DAMN THAT NOTHING-BUT-RENT-SEEKING BUTTON, THEN I DISCOVERED IRONIC TROLLING AND I REALIZED IT’S THE BEST DAMN KEY ON THE BOARD!!!! YEEEEE-HAAAAAAAW!

53 Turkey Vulture February 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

Tyler said federalist, not federal, so he must be thinking 50 shades of laboratories of democracy. The best experiments would benefit from some central guidance by the feds to assure better controls and more useful results.

54 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 1:28 am

“In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”
—Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam

It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists. While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discovery—that ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communities—was so explosive that for the last half decade he hadn’t dared announce it “until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it ‘would have been irresponsible to publish without that.’”

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/fragmented-future/

55 Thomas February 27, 2015 at 2:51 am

“would have been irresponsible to publish without that.”

People like this aren’t anything close to intellectually honest. See: Gruber, See: The (worship) Party of Science.

56 SanguineEmpiricist March 1, 2015 at 7:01 pm

These things aren’t always that simple and considering what has happened to some scientists who did not think things through it was warranted I believe.

57 chuck martel February 27, 2015 at 6:50 am

Putnam is the John Dewey of this generation.

58 lazy commenter February 27, 2015 at 2:46 am

Just offer to pay young women to take depo shots.

59 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:44 am

Much more practical and helpful than anything offered by Putnam.

60 Dain February 28, 2015 at 8:15 pm

And will be widely denounced as racist by progressives and even libertarians.

61 P February 27, 2015 at 4:19 am

This book does not flirt with the so-called Neoreaction.

What a curious remark. Why would it? I interpret this to mean that Tyler himself is flirting in that direction.

62 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:41 am

Yeah, the recommendations sound like the least neoreactionary things imaginable.

63 Millian February 27, 2015 at 7:12 am

A terrible philosophy. Tl;dr: “my endowments justify my success”.

64 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:39 am

“Putnam favors increased access to contraception, professional coaching of poor parents, prison sentencing reform and more emphasis on rehabilitation, eliminating fees for school extracurricular activities, mentoring programs, and greater investment in vocational education” -All of which are bad ideas (except for the increased emphasis on rehabilitation). Less imprisonment=more crime. More contraception=more out-of-wedlock births. Extracurriculars are fees in themselves, and limiting them for all classes would be far more useful than making them more affordable. Vocational education is mostly useful for the bright future of half a century ago.

65 ThomasH February 27, 2015 at 5:41 am

Where is the empirical support for “More contraception=more out-of-wedlock births?”

66 ivvenalis February 27, 2015 at 7:55 am

The last 40 years.

67 anon February 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

+1

68 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Isn’t the causation “more welfare=more out-of-wedlock births?” Why wouldn’t it be?

69 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Everyone seems to forget Yellen and Akerlof 1996
http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/1996/08/childrenfamilies-akerlof

70 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 10:24 pm

Very extruded, bass-ackward reasoning.

71 Asher February 27, 2015 at 5:43 am

Putnam starts with the axiom that community cohesion is a supreme value in American society. When he discovers that ethnic diversity harms this cohesion he interprets it as a disaster.

I enjoyed Bowling Alone but I didn’t find it particularly persuasive, so I am less worried by his latest findings than he is.

If LA has functioning government institutions to provide people with social and physical infrastructure then people can still go bowling with their friends, or even alone. Their friends might not be their neighbors and they might not form the leagues that Tocqueville found so quaint but it doesn’t sound like a disaster.

I bet a lot more people would want to move from Mayberry to LA than vice versa.

72 Steve Sailer February 27, 2015 at 5:50 am

L.A. is a great place to be young, thin, and rich.

73 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

Well, most people are not. Which is why they might be better off in some place decent. An abiding truth of American life is that California sucks.

74 msgkings February 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Are there any bad places to be young, thin, and rich? I guess Siberia.

75 ivvenalis February 27, 2015 at 5:16 pm

It’s mostly a matter of opportunity cost.

76 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 7:23 pm

With the ruble pretty cheap, even Siberia’s okay. I’d say Honduras or Eritrea.

77 The Anti-Gnostic February 27, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I’d say small towns in the Midwest not because I hate the Midwest, but because young, thin, rich people are noticeably averse to them.

78 jerseycityjoan February 27, 2015 at 5:53 am

The number of “have-nots” in America is rapidly growing.

The “have-nots” today and in the future will include many children, grandchildren and great-grandchlldren of hardworking average white and black people (with a few Hispanics and Asians in the mix) from the post-WWII era who never thought their families could fall so far and so fast.

In many ways we are going backward. Many of the economic injustices that were fought over more than 100 years are back — but so far, there’s only been a weak fight-back response from today’s exploited taxpayers and community members.

Costs for education, housing, healthcare keep going up tremendously as wages for these people stay the same or fall. Many of the jobs that would have been next steps out of retailing or food service are no longer available.

i expect things will get pretty ugly pretty soon, as those part time jobs at Wal Mart start looking worse and the millions of the post-recession “kids” still living at home hit 30 still don’t see how they’re going to get out of their parents’ houses.

Certainly I expect a lot more single parent households that will need government benefits to stay afloat. Many will need public housing and will qualify for it but there isn’t nearly enough to go around.

We are short of millions of jobs and housing units for both the “Old Poor” and the “New Poor” Americans. Where are they going to come from?

79 chuck martel February 27, 2015 at 6:42 am

“Costs for education, housing, healthcare keep going up tremendously as wages for these people stay the same or fall.”

The costs, education, for example, that are going up tremendously, are funds provided to people. Payments for education don’t just disappear into the ether, individuals get them, teachers, administrators, text salesmen, janitors, school bus drivers, etc. These costs are usually produced by government mandates. Same with housing and health care. Every time the government gets involved in a transaction, the costs go up.

” the millions of the post-recession “kids” still living at home hit 30 still don’t see how they’re going to get out of their parents’ houses.

Certainly I expect a lot more single parent households that will need government benefits to stay afloat.”

Maybe it’s possible for both these concepts to be simultaneously valid but they’re not complementary. How many millions of these kids are there? And what, exactly, is wrong with multi-generational families, which have been the norm for millennia? Is the demise of the multi-generational family accepted as an improvement in the human condition? How about the single parent family? Is that an improvement that must somehow be subsidized? What’s your point?

80 E. A. Poe February 27, 2015 at 8:15 am

No balm from Gilead, huh? What else is new?

81 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 10:19 am

The number of “have-nots” in America is rapidly growing.

If it makes you feel better, just make the numbers up.

82 JonFraz February 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm

With the exception of a few “hot” cities (NYC, DC, SanFran…) where are housing prices going up?
The Great Recession did pretty much put an end to serious housing appreciation, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men haven’t been able to restart it.

83 Dain February 28, 2015 at 8:22 pm

I’m fascinated by the way that merely re-framing today’s “problems” can turn them into something kinda quaint and desirable. This generation can’t afford their own homes? What’s so bad about a rentership society? They’re riding bicycles instead of driving cars because the latter is too expensive? But what about global warming? They’re living with their parents at age 30? Well what’s so bad about that? It’s adorable and besides, Italians do it.

84 collin February 27, 2015 at 8:37 am

Three Questions:

1) I don’t see more poor people today than we saw in the 1950s. More people lived like the Krandems than Father Knows Best in which I wished modern people look at as a model society.

2) Can we all accept the massive mobility in the 1950s – 1960s was a historical outlier due to the massive WW2 creative destruction.

3) In term of vocational training, it was a joke in US High School in 1980s. Why would it be better today? Our friends Germany also have corporate higher job training programs and union participation rates. Do you think there is a correlation there? To be honest, I would tell reasonably talented young people to learn both a blue collar trade and still get a college education.

4) The reason why I agree with Krugman on the skills mismatch because most blue collar jobs today have not seen real wage increases since 1974ish and probably had a high labor supply in the 70s and 80s.

85 Clover February 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

Putnam favors increased access to contraception, professional coaching of poor parents, prison sentencing reform and more emphasis on rehabilitation, eliminating fees for school extracurricular activities, mentoring programs, and greater investment in vocational education

It’s the standard liberal recommendation of “more social workers.”

If the ladder is higher, it makes sense it will be harder for people to climb. Policies designed to close the economic gaps between working class, college educated, and elite Americans would no doubt help. Race is a big factor. If the immediate postwar era had our demographics there would have been less “mingling of the upper and lower income classes.” There was also segregation, the White rich and White poor could live side by side in an all White neighborhood. And prole culture wasn’t so vulgar.

86 JonFraz February 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Re: And prole culture wasn’t so vulgar.

Or, the culture in general was more tolerant of some vices now mostly associated with the working class (and below): smoking, misogyny, philandering (provided it wasn’t talked about), and serious boozing were acceptable for middle and upper middle class people too. Nowadays not so much

87 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Per capita liquor consumption in 1955 was lower than it is today. I think you’d have a hard time demonstrating that wage-earners among the population of married men are more given to adultery than are married salaried employees and professionals, though they might be more likely to use prostitutes. I doubt misogyny is all that common in any social sector.

88 Clover February 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm

I don’t think the culture has gotten less tolerant of philandering over the years.

89 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 10:17 am

Putnam favors increased access to contraception, professional coaching of poor parents, prison sentencing reform and more emphasis on rehabilitation, eliminating fees for school extracurricular activities, mentoring programs, and greater investment in vocational education; contra Krugman he gives a lot of evidence for skills mismatch (pp.232-233). More generally, he asks for federalist solutions and lots of experimentation.

Actually, what he’s asking for is confounding the role of the state with the role of the family. For this reason, he should be ignored.

90 FUBAR007 February 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

What’s your solution?

91 Art Deco February 27, 2015 at 3:46 pm

My solution to what? That families vary in the degree to which they instill good habits, good character, and human capital is part of the human condition. I’m not motivated to do a blessed thing about it to please some academic spinning his wheels over ‘inequality’.

The state’s job is to maintain order, generate public goods, regulate the use of common property, address certain externalities, and see to some measure of common provision and redistribution. Setting up state sponsored actuarial pools and attempting to see to it that there’s an income floor for the elderly and disabled and that low-wage workers receive an income supplement does not change the reality that there are income strata and skill strata and that status and recognition attach to strata. It also does not change the reality that a troublesome mass of people (largely young men) commit crimes. If people are free, they are free to fail at certain things (or perform poorly at them).

92 FUBAR007 February 27, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Art Deco: “If people are free, they are free to fail at certain things (or perform poorly at them).”

How far are you willing to let that go? What to do if the percentage of the populace falling into this category continues to grow? How much collateral damage are you willing to tolerate? At what point does that percentage grow large enough to undermine the general social order?

In refreshing contrast to the misanthropic libertarian douchebags who normally congregate here, you claim to be a communitarian. What is your threshold for intervention? How bad do things have to get before you’re willing to commit to at least some degree of collective action?

93 Art Deco February 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

How far are you willing to let that go?

Pretty much all the way down. At the bottom, you have vagrants who are small enough in number to be taken care of by private charity, assisted by local government with extra police patrols. A few of them you can rescue. The rest you can provide a shower, a bed, and a meal to, and that’s it. Some of these people have discrete problems clinically defined. They belong in asylums and group homes, financed by public long-term care insurance. These two subpopulations amount to perhaps 0.5% of the total and are not Putnam’s object of concern.

Any society more complex than an agricultural village has a division of labor, so someone at sometime will be doing disagreeable low-wage work. For a great many people, that’s what they can handle and their satisfied with it if it comes with benefits and they’re meeting their core expenses. However, positional goods are zero-sum. You can build a conduit to them by socializing educational expenses (one hopes through better means than public agency), but that’s predominantly permissive and does not implicate hiring social workers and psychotherapists to replace parents in functions that lack economies of scale or in the exercise of skills that are not demonstrably present in every social stratum. Few people can teach algebra. The vast majority can raise children of sufficient social competence that they can earn a living (and the vast majority used to be able to raise children who could keep it in their pants and keep a marriage together).

Ultimately, what you’re implicitly advocating is expanding the ambo of some of the most dubious professional cadres (social workers, psychotherapists, and ‘educators’) at a time when there is not much indication they perform their current menu of tasks well (or should even form a certified profession). Bad business.

94 chairman February 27, 2015 at 7:09 pm

” If people are free, they are free to fail at certain things”

The rich are not free to do that; in fact, it’s an impossibility!

95 The Anti-Gnostic February 28, 2015 at 1:59 am

In a free economy, the poor can become rich and the rich are allowed to become poor. In a banana republic-economy, the rich are not allowed to become poor.

96 Art Deco February 28, 2015 at 11:04 am

You don’t know any rich people, or their children.

97 Donald Pretari February 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

“Do read this book, but by the end Putnam himself seems to come away deflated from dealing with some of America’s toughest problems.”

Why not ask Leon Feingold?

98 Bufo February 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

One of the principal opportunities for upper and lower income classes to “mingle” is in good public schools that bring together students from a cross-section of families in the community. Cross-sectional public schools are often achievable in small cities; more difficult to facilitate in larger cities. The Supreme Court, in its perverse decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), made it more difficult for hundreds of well-intentioned communities to maintain heterogeneous public schools.

99 Dan Weber February 27, 2015 at 10:37 am

Wow threading is broken today.

100 JWatts February 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

I’m not sure it is broken. I think the moderators nuked the deliberately misleading “prior_approval” post on eugenics.

101 JWatts February 27, 2015 at 10:56 am

Yes I know you are trolling, but many readers won’t so I’ll correct your deliberate misleading statements:

“and if schools (well, except charter schools, which apparently are a true boon) are not worth it, then there is no reason to pay for them with taxes, right?” The argument is generally why do we pay so much for schools with little results. Ergo, a near tripling of spending over the last 4 decades with no significant improvement in results. The conclusion many people reach is a) we should fund other school models (charter schools, etc) or b) we should reduce spending as long as there’s no negative effect on results.

“Which goes well with Prof. Cowen writing this – ‘Eugenics”

Here you don’t really even bother to make a point, just a snide comment. However, addressing the apparent underlying subtext, no one here is arguing that blacks, Jew or any other minority should have their babies aborted to help the gene pool. That was the Progressive argument from the early 20th century and the populist German argument from the middle of the 20th century. That’s been long discredited.

102 SPENCER February 27, 2015 at 11:25 am

Over the last 4 decades the CPI rose from 49.1 in 1974 to 236.7 in 2014, or a 4.8 fold increase.
If spending on education only tripled it means that real spending on education fell sharply.

In the face of real spending falling so sharply it would be quite an accomplishment to have achieved no significant change in results.

103 JWatts February 27, 2015 at 3:33 pm

US Federal spending on education has tripled in real dollars over the last 40 years.

104 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

@Anti-Gnostic
Where have all the threaded comments gone?

105 doxie February 27, 2015 at 9:09 pm

BBC doco on social mobility, http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/analysis/analysis_20150216-2100a.mp3

The dark missing link is that your children will be more downwardly mobile, irrespective of if you are near the top or bottom.

106 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Wages for young, uneducated people are not skyrocketing. They would be if there was any shortage of young, uneducated people.

107 E. Harding February 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

@Anti-Gnostic

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