The American upper middle class is separating, slowly but surely, from the rest of society. This separation is most obvious in terms of income—where the top fifth have been prospering while the majority lags behind. But the separation is not just economic. Gaps are growing on a whole range of dimensions, including family structure, education, lifestyle, and geography. Indeed, these dimensions of advantage appear to be clustering more tightly together, each thereby amplifying the effect of the other.
American society is divided along economic and educational lines, but also on the fault-line of the family. There is a much-discussed ‘marriage gap’ between affluent, well-educated Americans and their less-advantaged peers. Families in the top income quintile are much more likely to feature a married couple than those lower down the distribution. Of course, the fact of being married helps to push up family income, since two adults have twice the earnings potential. Nonetheless, the gaps by income in family structure are striking. There are more never-married than married adults (aged 35 to 40) in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution (37 percent v. 33 percent). In the top quintile, the picture is reversed: a large majority of household heads (83 percent) are married, while just 11 percent have never been married:
In itself, the relationship between upper middle class status and family structure may seem of little concern. Whether people choose to marry or not is a personal choice. But family structure, as a marker and predictor of family stability, makes a difference to the life chances of the next generation. To the extent that upper middle class Americans are able to form planned, stable, committed families, their children will benefit—and be more likely to retain their childhood class status when they become adults.
Please read the whole thing. It is a classic illustration of the liberal mindset. The upper middle class tends to marry and stay married at higher rates. That, of course, is “bad” since children raised in a stable, intact, household have an advantage over those who are not raised in such a favorable environment. The author doesn’t seem to be suggesting that the “solution” is to somehow try to minimize out of wedlock births or other manifestations of family instability, rather, he hints at their being something wrong with the upper middle class’s social and economic success. The same goes for their proclivity to invest in education for themselves (see, “where did you get your second degree?”) and their children. Guess there must also be something wrong with their having lower rates of crime and problems with substance abuse. These, of course, are problems if you think the apparent lack of downward mobility is a major social problem.