Tim Carney’s Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse is an outstanding book. Although it did discuss Trump’s election in passing, that is mainly a tool it used to point to cultural differences in different parts in the country. Other books have covered some of this same ground, but Carney made an excellent point that the disintegration of real-life social ties in America is doing much more damage than we may have realized. Other books like Bowling Alone and Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 have covered some of the same ground, but Carney did an excellent job of adding something to their work. Here are the best stats and quotes from Carney’s book which I think is well worth reading.
* But maybe the things we think accompany the American Dream are the things that really are the American Dream. What if the T-ball game, the standing-room-only high school Christmas concert, the parish potluck, and decorating the community hall for a wedding—what if those activities are not the dressings around the American Dream, but what if they are the American Dream?
* Why do so many people believe the American Dream is dead? I think the answer is this: because strong communities have crumbled, and much of America has been left abandoned, without the web of human connections and institutions that make the good life possible. More of America is a wasteland of alienation. Less of America is the “village.”
* Up and down the income scale, the economy was robust. Blue-collar workers made up about one-third of the workforce, and three-fourths of them enjoyed membership in unions. Businesses, booming, had bought peace with Big Labor. The result was reliable labor, reliable pay, and good retirement. The old folks back then were propped up by Social Security, funded by 8.6 workers for every retiree. Able-bodied men were expected to work, and almost all of them did. The unemployment rate in July 1955 was 4.0 percent. If a household was headed by adults in their thirties or forties, odds were overwhelming (above 80 percent) that at least one adult worked forty hours a week—this was true even for families whose head didn’t go to college. Good breadwinner jobs for white-collar and blue-collar men allowed 80 percent of wives with young children to stay at home.