Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's no longer Leave It To Beaver America

The America in which I live today barely resembles the America of my formative years. The political scientist Charles Murray puts numbers to the change. A half century ago:

1. Marriage was practically universal and divorce extraordinarily rare.
“In the 1963 Current Population Survey, a divorced person headed just 3.5 percent of American households, with another 1.6 percent headed by a separated person.” Today, 28 percent of children live in single-parent homes, according to government statistics.
2. Out of wedlock births almost never happened, especially in white families.
“…among whites, the illegitimacy ratio was only 3 percent, about where it had been throughout the century.” (Murray points out that births to single African-American women had just begun “rising worrisomely.”) Today in the U.S., the birthrate for unmarried women is 40 percent.
3. Illegal drugs were rare and considered exotic.
“In 1963, there was just 18 arrests for drug abuse violations per 100,000 Americans.” (There were plenty of arrests for drunkenness, however: 1,284 per 100,000.) By 2010, arrests for sale/manufacturing drug offenses alone were about 100 per 100,000, according to FBI statistics.
4. Religious values were widely held and share.
According to an October 1963 Gallup poll, just “1 percent of respondents said they did not have a religious preference, and half said they had attended a worship service the last seven days.”  
5. It was not socially acceptable for men to be idle.
“…98 percent of civilian men in their thirties and forties reported to government interviewers that they were in the labor force, either working or seeking work.” (Government data for 2014 show the following labor participation rates for men: 35 to 44 (90.5 percent) and 45 to 54 (85.6 percent)
6. Television was much ore influential than it is today.
“All of the top thirty-one shows had ratings of at least 20…led by The Beverly Hillbillies with a rating of 34.9, meaning that 34.9 percent of all American homes with a television set were watching it.” As a point of comparison, the top-rated primetime TV programs of 2016 (The Big Bang Theory and NCIS) scored a 6.7 rating.
Do you consider any of this progress?

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