How Thick Is Your 'Middle Class Bubble'?

Are you an out-of-touch elite or a student of "Real America"? Take this quiz and find out how well you know the people you share this country with. 

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Are you an out-of-touch elitist or a student of "Real America"? Take this quiz and find out how well you know the people you share this country with.

Charles Murray has been the academic of the moment since the release of his latest book, "Coming Apart," which looks at the growing divide among the classes in America. Part of his argument centers on the idea that not only are we moving away from each other economically, but that upper-class Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant of those who aren't like them. As Murray suggests, “It is not a problem if truck drivers cannot empathize with the priorities of Yale professors. It is a problem if Yale professors, or producers of network news programs, or CEOs of great corporations, or presidential advisers cannot empathize with the priorities of truck drivers." That's because there are more truck drivers than Yale professors, but it's the Yalies who are more likely to influence public policy. If they don't understand what it's like to be part of the mainstream, then everyone pays the price for that. We don't all have to be alike, but we should at least be aware of how others live.

Murray's book even contains a 25-question quiz that allows you test your personal knowledge and experience of those "other" Americans, which as John Carney of CNBC showed us, is available as a sample chapter on Murray's website. The goal is not tp find out how rich you are, but whether you know anything about the people who live a different lifestyle.

With questions like "When was the last time you ate at an Applebee's?" or "Have you ever walked on a factory floor?" (Or rode on a Greyhound bus? Or do you have any evangelical Christian friends?) the test is designed to gauge your awareness of mainstream America — i.e., the working class, non-coastal families that make up the bulk of our population. But it's not just a measure of where you are now, as much as it is a measure of where you came from. If you grow up rich, you're more likely to stay that way, and less likely to know anyone who isn't. If you have working class roots, however, you're likely still carrying that around with you in some small way — even if you've since become wealthy — and can better empathize with the mainstream of the country. It's okay to be in the bubble, provided you didn't grow up in one and have never bothered to look outside of it.

Again, you can take the quiz at Murray's website, though you'll need a note pad to keep careful track of your score. Not to brag about our own cultural awareness of America, but we got a 58 out of 100, a result that is described as typical for "a first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and moviegoing habits." If you're stuck in an ivory tower, your score will be much lower, which means you're also probably missing out on some decent movies. Sometimes being average isn't so bad.

Image by Daniel Krylov via Shutterstock.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.