Major changes in family structure among high-school educated whites should reshape our understanding of who has social capital in America, he says.
Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, issued a strong warning to anti-poverty advocates at a forum on social connectedness at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday, urging the audience to get beyond talking about poverty and race and start thinking about social mobility and class instead.
"Those two conceptual moves, framing it as poverty and thinking about it as a matter of race, have a very deep history... and I think both politically and analytically that's an almost fatally flawed framework," said Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in response to remarks from co-panelists Anne Mosle, vice president of policy at the Aspen Institute, and Mario Small, chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
The class gap is growing while the racial gap is shrinking.
"You say poverty to most ordinary Americans, most ordinary voters, they think black ghettos," he continued, whereas over the last couple of generations "class, not race is the dominant -- and becoming more dominant -- dimension of difficulty here."