I have a predictably optimistic take on Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.  But these two graphs did indeed shock me.  The first contrasts divorce rates for working class (“Fishtown”) and professional (“Belmont”) whites:


Notice: Among professionals, divorce plateaued over three decades ago at roughly 8%.  Working class divorce rates started higher, rose more quickly, and never stopped rising.

Murray’s second shocking graph shows the fraction of working class and professional whites who say they’re happily married:



Professionals have always been more likely to be happily married, and both groups saw a decline.  But for professionals, happiness bottomed out in the mid-90, then rebounded.  For the working class, again, there’s been a linear decline, leaving only a quarter happily married.

Still, as Kahneman reminds us, “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you’re thinking about it.”  If you double-check in the GSS, you’ll find that overall happiness has been virtually constant since the survey began in 1972.  On a 3-point scale, happiness has decreased by .001 per year.  Current trends could continue for a century before we’d see a tenth of a point decline in average happiness.  So quit yer mopin’.