6 Statistics That Show How Much America Has Changed in a Half-Century

6 Statistics That Show How Much America Has Changed in a Half-Century

Since the political scientist Charles Murray will be speaking at Intellectual Takeout’s upcoming gala, I thought it fitting to read his best-selling 2012 book, Coming Apart.

Drawing on five decades of statistics, anecdotes, and other research, Murray sets out to make the case that America is, well, coming apart—economically, socially, and culturally.

It’s a fascinating book, largely because Murray really did his homework. Murray provides so many statistics and poignant anecdotes that his readers quickly realize a startling fact: the America of 1963 scarcely resembles that of 2017 from a social and cultural perspective.

Readers may disagree as to whether these changes represent social progress or cultural decline, but few will quarrel with the idea that America 1) is bifurcating; 2) has experienced a fundamental cultural transformation in just a few generations.

Here are six statistics that drive home just how much things have changed in America in a little more than a half-century:

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 shared.

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.” (The Gallup poll, Murray, notes did not use the term “worship service.” It used the word “church.”)

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 more 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.


These statistics are not evidence that life was necessarily “better” in 1963 than in 2017, just that it was more culturally cohesive (almost monolithic, some would say). Nor does Murray ignore facts that suggest all Americans did not enjoy equal access and opportunity in American society as it was constructed in 1963.

Rather, his thesis is that the things that made American culture unique are changing in fundamental ways.

“The American project…consists of the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit, coming together voluntarily to solve their joint problems. The polity based on that idea led to a civic culture that was seen as exceptional by all the world. That culture was so widely shared among Americans that it amounted to a civil religion. To be an American was to be different from other nationalities, in ways that Americans treasured. That culture is unraveling.”

Murray’s thesis has the ring of truth to it. One can either mourn or applaud this “unraveling.” But I’d challenge anyone to read Coming Apart and deny that this unraveling is taking place.

This post 6 Statistics That Show How Much America Has Changed in a Half-Century was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Jon Miltimore.

How J.R.R. Tolkien Used Middle-Earth to Reveal Who We Are

How J.R.R. Tolkien Used Middle-Earth to Reveal Who We Are

In his famous essay on fairy stories, J. R. R. Tolkien asserted that one of the most important facets of fairytales is that they hold up a “Mirror of scorn and pity towards Man”. The fairy story, Tolkien wrote, “may be used as a Mirour de l’Omme” (mirror of man), as something that shows us ourselves. If this is so, and it is, it means that the greatest fairy stories are not mere fantasies that serve as a flight from reality but are a powerful means by which we can see ourselves and others more clearly. In this sense, and paradoxically, the greatest fairy stories are also works of realism. They show us reality.

The best way of putting Tolkien’s words to the test is to see how The Lord of the Rings, probably the most popular fairy story ever told, holds up a mirror that shows us ourselves.

In The Lord of the Rings there is one character, above all others, who can be said to represent us. This is Boromir, who is the only mere Man in the Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship consists of four hobbits, a dwarf, an elf, a wizard, a king … and a man. Our sole representative in the Fellowship which sets out from Rivendell is Boromir. 

It is Boromir we see when we look in the mirror. The “Mirror of scorn and pity” shows us a traitor. It shows us the one who betrays the fellowship, who severs the bond of friendship. Boromir, as the representative of humanity, is moved to this act of treachery because he desires to use evil means (the Ring) for a good end (saving Minas Tirith). In order to attain the evil means that he wants to use, he employs evil means (theft) to get it. He is starting as he no doubt will continue, justifying one evil action after another on the grounds that it serves an ultimately good end.

Boromir, blinded by pride, does not see that we cannot use evil means to a good end without corrupting the good end itself, making it evil. If Minas Tirith had defeated Sauron’s army by using the power of the Ring, it would have fallen under the Ring’s power, thereby ceasing to be a civilization worth defending and becoming an evil empire worth resisting. Such a victory would be pyrrhic. Indeed it would be the harshest and most ironic of defeats. It would not have been the defeat of evil but its victory. It would have been better for the people of Minas Tirith to fall nobly in battle against the evil enemy than to have succumbed to evil themselves.

And lest we fail to get the point, we can see that history is full of examples of people taking the Boromir option, employing evil means to further an ostensibly noble cause. We think perhaps of the French Revolution and the use of the guillotine in the service of “liberté, egalité et fraternité” (all good ends in themselves) and the Reign of Terror which ensued. We think of the show trials and mass executions in communist countries in the name of the same freedom, equality and brotherhood. We think of the systematic extermination of the weak, the disabled and the defenseless in the womb in the name of “freedom of choice”. In showing us Boromir, Tolkien is holding up a “mirror of scorn and pity”, showing us ourselves. This is what Tolkien called the “applicability” of a story, the way in which it can be applied to our own world and our own lives.

It should be added that Tolkien gives us other characters in The Lord of the Rings who serve as a mirror of ourselves, such as Faramir, Boromir’s brother, who states that he would not pick up the Ring if he saw it lying on the side of the road and that he would not snare even an orc with a falsehood; in other words that he would not tell a lie, even to the devil himself, never succumbing to an evil means to a good end. Faramir is, therefore, not only Boromir’s brother but his alter ego or even his antithesis and antidote. If Boromir shows us who we are tempted to be, Faramir shows us who we should be; one is the sinner, the other the saint.

And Tolkien also shows us ourselves in the character of Gollum, who is so consumed by his desire for self-gratification that he has become addicted to the bad habits that are destroying him, shriveling his soul into a mere wreckage of what it once was. There are, therefore, several ways that Tolkien allows us to find ourselves in Middle-earth, seeing ourselves reflected in the characters and the lessons they teach us about what it is to be human.

[Image Credit: New Line Cinema] 

This post How J.R.R. Tolkien Used Middle-Earth to Reveal Who We Are was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Joseph Pearce.

This Is How a Dark Age Begins… 

Our society doesn’t care about knowledge or contemplation of ideas, concepts, and philosophies anymore. They are “entertained” by information, follow the masses, and don’t even care if what they are reading or hearing is based in fact or witnessed as reality. Popular belief overshadows true knowledge and classical thinking. We believe we are “enlightened” and “evolved” because we think our ideas are “new” and “different”, but we are deceiving ourselves. Human folly repeats itself over and over evidenced by history, and the demise of numerous civilizations before ours today. 

Kathy Kleine Mason

The 4 Horsemen of the Philosophical Apocalypse

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) was the dean of Yale Law School, the president of the University of Chicago, and one of the more influential philosophers of education in the 20th century.

In a stirring passage from a series of lectures he gave in 1951, Hutchins identified four intellectual trends that had been absolutely disastrous for modern education. He called these trends “the four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse”:

“If the object of education is the improvement of men, then any system of education that is without values is a contradiction in terms. A system that seeks bad values is bad. A system that denies the existence of values denies the possibility of education. Relativism, scientism, skepticism, and anti-intellectualism, the four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse, have produced that chaos in education which will end in the disintegration of the West.”

Here are brief descriptions of each of “the four horsemen” and their impact on education:

1. Relativism:  The idea that notions of true and false, right and wrong, are purely subjective. Generally speaking, you can see its impact on education today through the exaltation of “tolerance” as the highest virtue, in addition to the changing of the purpose of education from helping students to pursue truth to the pragmatic goal of making them “college- and career-ready.”

2.  Scientism:  The idea that the only true or meaningful knowledge is that gained through science. This has contributed to the significant weakening of the humanities curriculum and the decline of basic reading and writing skills at the expense of STEM education.

3.  Skepticism:  For Hutchins, skepticism (related to relativism) referred to the idea that our beliefs are nothing more than “our own moods and humours, or, at the utmost, the local prejudices of our own country.” Therefore, according to this way of thinking, schools in Western countries such as America should not attempt to convince students of the truth of Western principles, or even worse, argue that some of these principles are superior to those of other cultures. Rather, they should simply teach students to “appreciate” other cultures.

4.  Anti-Intellectualism:  As Isaac Asimov noted, “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Hutchins saw anti-intellectualism in the increasing resort to sentimentality in Western culture. Today, one sees it particularly manifested in schools in which students are encouraged to have opinions on matters of which they have little to no knowledge, and that the teacher’s job is merely to “affirm” these opinions.

These pernicious ideas have grown in strength since Hutchins wrote in 1951. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the “four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse” now permeate most public and private schools.

According to Hutchins, these four horsemen were harbingers of “the disintegration of the West.” Can it be stopped?