[guest post by JVW]
Our host started a lively discussion a couple weeks back with his post on Charles Murray’s “Do You Live in a Bubble” quiz. To provide the briefest of recaps: Murray created a 25 question quiz, the answers to which inform you whether or not you are insulated from what Murray defines as “middle class America.” The higher your score, Murray contends, the more affinity you have with middle class people and middle class values, and the lower you score the more you can be said to live in a bubble. Patterico then followed up with a post in which he and many of his readers revealed their precise answers to the individual questions, and we had a general discussion about the accuracy of Murray’s model.
Now Murray has compiled a list of the U.S. zip codes which he believes have the highest proportion of bubble dwellers, or, to use his own words, neighborhoods in which you would live “[i]f you want your child to grow up clueless about mainstream white America.” He summarized the results on the PBS website last week, with a sample size of 50,000+ respondents who took his quiz and reported on the zip code they lived in at age 10. Not surprisingly, Manhattan has six of the lowest scores, with the 10023 zip of the Upper West Side registering an amazingly low 12.5 average score on the quiz. Other low scores include the Westfield, NJ area which is a suburb of the New York-Newark megalopolis; Orinda, CA located on the east side of the Berkeley hills; Kendall, FL, just south of Miami; and Newton Center, MA which is a tony suburb of Boston. Fifty-seven of the 75 zip codes with the highest concentration of bubble dwellers are in or around New York City, San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles, and Boston.
Murray also attaches a metric regarding the socioeconomic status (SES) for each of the 75 zip codes. While we might not be surprised that neighborhoods that rank in the top one-fifth of one percent (i.e., an SES of 99.8%) on that scale are heavily represented (Short Hills, NJ; Palo Alto, CA; Wellesley Hills, MA), it is quite surprising to see some moderate-to-low income zip codes on the list such as the Lower East Side of Manhattan (average quiz score of 18, SES of 31.8%), the Los Angeles suburb of La Mirada (24.5 average score, SES of 70.8%), and Nike’s headquarters location of Beaverton (average score of 22, SES of 74.5%) just outside of Portland. Bubble living, then, can be said to be more than just a function of wealth, encompassing additional issues of immigration, lifestyle, and local politics.
Murray writes that he is next considering comparing the zip code of the quiz respondents at age 10 to their current zip code, presumably to see if there is a migratory pattern where people relocate to neighborhoods more reflective of their own scores.