“Coming Apart” and Fishtown

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23, 2012.


Coming Apart, the book I published a few months ago, tracks the cultural divergences in America’s classes from 1960 to 2010, focusing on whites as a way of getting people to understand that the problems I describe aren’t driven by minorities. I used Belmont, an affluent Boston suburb, as my label for the white upper middle class, and Fishtown, referring to Philadelphia’s own Fishtown, one of the oldest white working-class communities in America, as my label for the white working class.

The story I told using national numbers was bleak. During the last half-century, marriage rates in white working-class America plunged and so did church attendance, while violent crime increased almost fivefold (even after taking the reductions since the mid-1990s into account). White working-class males dropped out of the labor force, in good times and bad — by 2008, before the economic meltdown, about one out of eight white working-class males in the prime of life (30—49) was not even in the labor force.

Philadelphia Inquirer