Coming Apart (book)

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Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010
Coming Apart.JPG
Author Charles Murray
Published 2012 by Crown Forum
Pages 416
ISBN 0307453421

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 is a 2012 book by political scientist and W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Charles Murray. Murray describes what he sees as the economic divide and moral decline of white Americans that has occurred since 1960. He focuses on white Americans in order to make it clear that the decline he describes was not being experienced solely by minorities, whom he brings into his argument in the last few chapters of the book.

Murray describes several differences he sees forming between and causing two emerging classes—the New Upper Class and the New Lower class—among which are differences in or lack thereof in regards to religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, family, etc. Murray goes on to provide evidence that religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, and family etc. have either remained strong or have weakened minimally in the New Upper Class, whereas these same attributes have either weakened substantially or have become almost nonexistent in the New Lower Class.[1] Much of his argument is centered on a notion of self-selective sorting that began in the 1960s and 1970s, when he argues that cognitive ability became the essential predictor of professional and financial success, and people overwhelmingly began marrying others in the same cognitive stratum and living in areas surrounded largely by others in that same stratum, leading to not only an exacerbation of existing economic divides, but an unprecedented sociocultural divide that had not existed before in America.


Nell Irvin Painter author of The History of White People criticized many aspects of the book in an opinion piece in the New York Times.[2]

Bryan Caplan reviewed Coming Apart on his blog EconLog, calling the book "another social science page turner, written with earnest eloquence and full of fascinating information" but went on to criticize Murray for glass half empty thinking. Caplan concluded that the message he got from Murray's book (different from Murray's own conclusion) was that traditionalists who preached virtuous lifestyles needed to discard their populist anti-elitist attitude and instead embrace elites as exemplars of the virtues they preached.[3] Caplan followed up by noting that some of Murray's pessimism was overstated and a result of myopic focus on specific indicators: for instance, Murray focused on an apparently steep decline in marital happiness even though overall happiness had held almost constant over the same time period.[4] Later, Caplan wrote a blog post attempting to reconcile Coming Apart (which blamed the decline in moral character) with Murray's two other books: Losing Ground (which blamed the welfare state and the incentives it set up) and The Bell Curve (which blamed cognitive stratification and the difficulties that the increasing complexities of modern life presented to low IQ individuals).[5]

Statistician Andrew Gelman wrote a lengthy review of Coming Apart on his blog.[6] The book was also reviewed by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times,[7] David Frum in The Daily Beast,[8] Roger Devlin in The Occidental Quarterly,[9] and Foseti on his/her own blog.[10]

The book was included in New York Times´s list of 100 Notable Books of 2012.[11]


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  2. ^ Irvin Painter, Nell (2012-03-25). "When Poverty Was White". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  3. ^ Caplan, Bryan (2012-01-17). "An Optimist's Take on Charles Murray's Coming Apart". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  4. ^ Caplan, Bryan (2012-02-03). "My Two Favorite Graphs From Coming Apart". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  5. ^ Caplan, Bryan (2012-03-12). "Losing Ground, The Bell Curve, and Coming Apart: A Reconciliation". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  6. ^ Gelman, Andrew. "Charles Murray on the new upper class". Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  7. ^ Edsall, Thomas (2012-02-12). "What to Do About 'Coming Apart'". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  8. ^ Frum, David (2012-02-06). "Is the White Working Class Coming Apart?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  9. ^ Devlin, Roger (2012-01-09). "Elite and Underclass". The Occidental Quarterly. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  10. ^ Foseti (2012-02-12). "Review of "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  11. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2012". New York Times. 2012-12-02. Retrieved 2013-07-05.