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American Enter­prise Institute Fellow Charles Murray spoke at Hillsdale College on Feb. 19 about the growing class divi­sions in America. Brian Freimuth | Col­legian

“You can be at an upper class party and use the word ‘redneck’ and nobody will push back at you. You can talk about ‘flyover country’ without fear that anybody else at the party will say ‘well that’s really con­de­scending.’ Well, guess what, we people who identify with flyover country know what people mean by that, and we don’t like it. We know what people mean by ‘redneck,’ and we don’t like it.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Fellow at the American Enter­prise Institute and famous author of “The Bell Curve” and “Coming Apart,” Charles Murray, spoke to stu­dents and faculty about the widening class divide between low-income and high-income white Amer­icans.

Murray claimed that white Amer­icans with college degrees and white Amer­icans with no more than high school diplomas are splitting into two dis­tinct classes with dif­ferent con­cerns and social behaviors that have caused them to become polit­i­cally polarized. Murray said that high-income Amer­icans have socially sep­a­rated them­selves from low-income Amer­icans, who have expe­ri­enced a decline of religion, mar­riage, and employment since the 1960s.

Hillsdale stu­dents affil­iated with the American Enter­prise Institute brought Charles Murray to campus through Hillsdale’s Exec­utive Council Program, which coor­di­nates events and vis­iting speakers.

In his 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 – 2010,” Murray elab­o­rates on the trends he dis­cussed in Tuesday’s lecture.

“I wanted to describe how it came to be that we have a new upper class and a new lower class,” Murray said. “New in the sense that they are dif­ferent in kind from the upper class and the lower class in any other time in American history.”

Since the 1960s, elite col­leges like Harvard have increas­ingly admitted stu­dents on the basis of high SAT scores rather than on the basis of prestige and family legacy as they had done before, according to Murray.

Murray said these trends moved Amer­icans with high IQ’s from their home com­mu­nities to wealthy cos­mopolitan areas, dividing them from the new American lower class. Murray said the “new American upper class” and “new American lower class” have two com­pletely dif­ferent cul­tures.

In the new American upper class, “you have rad­i­cally dif­ferent norms for how the kids spend their time, with heli­copter par­enting being very common, where the kids time is pro­grammed inten­sively they have all sorts of extra cur­ricular activ­ities, whereas the rest of America is more likely to raise free-range kids. They are way, way dif­ferent,” Murray said.

Murray said this new American upper class is char­ac­terized by higher incomes and suc­cessful family struc­tures and has sep­a­rated itself cul­turally from the rest of the country.

“This developed new upper class culture is way dif­ferent with main­stream American culture,” Murray said. “If it were accom­panied by con­tinued attitude of love of their fellow Amer­icans it would keep us together… instead you have had the new upper class express their disdain… for main­stream America.”

Murray said 40 percent of lower class Amer­icans are born out of wedlock and only 12 percent of lower class Amer­icans have a dis­tinct reli­gious affil­i­ation while one-third of upper class Amer­icans still have strong reli­gious affil­i­a­tions.

Murray explained that these trends are destructive to patri­otism and national unity, and that the new upper class could reconnect with the rest of American by not choosing to sep­arate them­selves exclu­sively into high income com­mu­nities and schools.

Senior Tim Polelle said that Murray’s diag­nosis was correct, but his solution fell short.

“I think Murray’s pes­simistic diag­nosis of our sit­u­ation is correct,” Polelle said. “However, for such a bad political, cul­tural, and spir­itual problem, the solution he sug­gests — hun­kering down at the small town and per­sonal level, joining a local club or vol­unteer group — is insuf­fi­cient to solve the broader problems he iden­tifies.”

Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter said Murray’s points con­cerning the dis­unity of America’s eco­nomic classes were per­suasive and that Murray showed proper concern for the alien­ation of low-income Amer­icans.

“Murray’s remarks are a per­suasive and pow­erful reminder that con­sti­tu­tional liberty ulti­mately rests on spe­cific cul­tural and moral foun­da­tions, that cit­i­zenship requires char­acter and not just knowledge,” Schlueter said. “Moreover, in his diag­nosis of polar­ization he dis­played the kind of sym­pathy, care, balance, and candor that that all lib­erally edu­cated cit­izens should seek to emulate.”

During a Q&A that fol­lowed the talk, stu­dents and faculty dis­cussed with Murray how vol­un­teering and dif­ferent career choices would help reconnect Amer­icans divided by income and edu­cation dif­fer­ences. Murray sug­gested that grad­uates join the mil­itary rather than attend graduate school and rec­om­mended that stu­dents work blue collar jobs in the summer and choose to live in areas with Amer­icans of dif­ferent incomes.