A Tale of Two Cities

R. Shep Melnick, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2012.


Charles Murray knows how to draw attention. Soon after Coming Apart appeared, nearly everyone who follows public affairs knew of the yawning gap separating the declining, demoralized “Fishtown”—Murray’s name for the 30% of the white population in households lacking a college graduate—and the prosperous, remoralized “Belmont”—his term for the 20% of the population in well-paying professional and managerial positions. He convincingly demonstrates that our conventional stereotypes of the religious, family-oriented, white working class and the secular, individualistic, educated elite are incorrect. In fact, what was once the white working class is now beset not only by falling wages, but by a precipitous decline in two-parent families, religious engagement, work ethic, law-abidingness, and social capital. Just the opposite is true in the affluent suburbs, whose residents have both benefited from increasing economic returns on education and rediscovered what Murray calls the “Founding Virtues”: industriousness, religiosity, honesty, and marriage.

Claremont Institute