Primary Sources

Muslim public opinion the world over; the disappearing middle-class neighborhood; the specter of the sexual “superpeer”


The Middle Class Once Happened Here

As the gap between America's rich and poor widens, the number of urban middle-class neighborhoods has steeply declined, a new Brookings Institution paper points out. In 1970, 58 percent of metropolitan neighborhoods enjoyed a middle-class median income; in 2000, just 41 percent of urban neighborhoods were middle class. (Similar trends hold true in the suburbs, the report notes.) There are still many middle-class urbanites— 22 percent of city dwellers, down from 28 percent in 1970—but the neighborhoods they are living in are increasingly quasi-ghettos or gold coasts. The report warns that as economic diversity diminishes and neighborhoods divide further into rich and poor, cities will have a harder time distributing public services equitably and attracting private investment into places that aren't already hyper-gentrified. As for where you should move if you're looking for a socioeconomic melting pot, the data suggest Seattle, or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, both of which are among the ten cities with the most middle-class neighborhoods. The two cities most stratified by class, meanwhile, are New York City and Los Angeles—which should come as no surprise to anyone who has taken the subway from the Bronx to the Upper East Side, or driven from Santa Monica to South Central.

—“‘Where Did They Go?' The Decline of Middle-Income Neighborhoods in Metropolitan America,” Jason Booza, Jackie Cutsinger, and George Galster, Brookings Institution

Foreign Affairs

Mixed Signals

Whether you think that Europe is assimilating its Muslim minorities just fine, thank you, or being swamped by a radical Islamic tide, a new Pew survey of Muslim opinion will bolster your argument. The report finds that overall, Europe's Muslim minorities are more moderate than their coreligionists in Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Jordan: they are more likely to describe Westerners as "respectful of women," "generous," and "honest," and less likely to call them "selfish" or "arrogant" or "violent"—and they are marginally less likely to find a conflict between modernity and Islam. Muslims in the West are also more favorably disposed to their Jewish neighbors—particularly in France, where 71 percent of Muslims have a favorable impression of Jews. But the picture isn't all positive. Muslims in Britain, France, and Germany are just as likely as the inhabitants of Muslim-majority nations to describe relations between Muslims and Westerners as "generally bad." Support for suicide bombing in defense of Islam is marginally lower among Muslims living in the West than elsewhere, but even so, 35 percent of French Muslims and a quarter of Spanish and British Muslims would countenance it under some circumstances. And while European Muslims are more likely than Muslims elsewhere to admit that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks, pluralities in Britain, Germany, and Spain still insist that someone else took down the Twin Towers.

—“‘"The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other," Pew Research Center,” Jason Booza, Jackie Cutsinger, and George Galster, Brookings Institution


The (Sexual) Revolution Will Be Televised

The FCC crackdown in the aftermath of Janet Jackson's nipple slip may not have been entirely misguided. A new study finds that exposure to sexuality in the media can, in fact, make teenagers more likely to have sex at an early age. Researchers surveyed 1,017 teens in fourteen North Carolina middle schools, interviewing students between the ages of twelve and fourteen about their media-consumption habits and their sexual activities (or lack thereof). The researchers then performed what must have been a fairly stimulating “content analysis” of the 264 television shows, magazines, songs, and movies that were mentioned by more than 10 percent of the students, quantifying the portrayals and discussions of “pubertal development, romantic relationships, body exposure or nudity, sexual innuendo, touching and kissing and sexual intercourse.” Using these data, and controlling for a variety of factors, the study found that the students between the ages of twelve and fourteen who enjoyed the largest “Sexual Media Diet” (SMD) were the most likely to engage in sexual activity within the next two years—but only if they were white. Among black teens, there was no correlation between SMD and sexual activity, even though black teens tended to be more sexually experienced, and to spend more time consuming media, than their white peers. The authors note that teens tend to base their sexual behavior on perceptions of their peers' activity, and suggest that a hypersexualized media may function as “a kind of sexual superpeer that encourages them to be sexually active.” For black teenagers, however, they speculate that the power of “real peer groups that promote early and frequent sexual activity”—particularly the cultural pressure on “urban black males who are encouraged to achieve status by having as many sexual partners as possible”—may be stronger than it is for white teens.

—“Sexy Media Matter: Exposure to Sexual Content in Music, Movies, Television, and Magazines Predicts Black and White Adolescents' Sexual Behavior,” Jane D. Brown et al., Pediatrics