Arnold Kling  

The Bubble Quiz

The Prospects for a U.S. Defau... Life in the Bubble...

We've been discussing Charles Murray's Coming Apart, and now there is a quiz you can take to find out if you are living in an elitist bubble.

My score was reported as "between 5 and 8," which is weird, since the questions had yes or no answers. I guess whatever exact number I got, they classified it as between 5 and 8. The lowest possible score is 0, which would be totally in the bubble. The highest possible score would be 20, which would make me a real representative of the common man.

I feel like the points I got were somewhat illegitimate. I got a couple points for having worked in a factory, but that was in a summer job in college almost 40 years ago. I also got a point for having a close friend who disagrees with me politically, but that's because I'm the weirdo. If it weren't for me, my friends would have nobody who disagrees with them.

Having said that, I thought some of the questions were type-casting and crude. Only a small minority of Americans have worked on a factory floor. "Manufacturing production workers" was about 6 percent of the work force, last time I checked. You don't want to say that the other 94 percent are living in the bubble. On religion, my understanding is that Murray claims that the upper classes are more church-loyal than the lower classes, but the quiz did not ask something related to that. Instead, it asked if you know any strong evangelicals.

I do think that the bubble is an issue. The really elite private high schools nowadays have students spend a semester in France or Spain. I think they would get a richer cultural experience spending a semester in a small town outside the Northeast.

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CATEGORIES: Income Distribution

COMMENTS (24 to date)
RSF writes:

Volokh Conspiracy has a link to the full quiz. It is still a rather flawed measure, but I don't doubt that there is a bubble that is problematic. It looks like it provides a little more granularity in the answers compared to your link. It is self-scored however.

RSF writes:

Harrison Searles writes:

5/20 myself.

Evan writes:

10/20. I got a lot of points from growing up in a small town and being a seasonal worker at a factory. The religion question screwed me up too, I've been a moderate churchgoer in the past and know some evangelicals, but don't have any who are close friends.

Matt writes:

It showed my exact score (5) on the "certificate" and told me I scored between 5 and 8 on the results section.

My points were also mostly illegitimate. I went to an Applebees bar, but it was an ironic gesture.

Bob Montgomery writes:

I took the quiz yesterday and scored something like 13-16.

The quiz is certainly flawed, but I think as a rough-n-ready estimate it works well enough. I'd say there should be a follow-up question: If you disagreed enough with the results to dispute them publicly, subtract 10 from your score!

Anyway, I really took the time to comment to dispute Arnold's complaint about the manufacturing question.

Yes, few people work in manufacturing. But the question asks if you have ever worked in manufacturing. I certainly don't now, but a very common job for HS graduates in my hometown, and what I did to help put myself through college, was to go to a temp agency ( and sign up. If you are 19 year old with little job experience, they send you to a warehouse to move boxes, sweep floors, etc.

Somehow I doubt many of the elite share that experience.

todd writes:

9 of 20. Seems about right. Living in the Midwest, I think it would be hard to score much below 8.

joeftansey writes:

Awww yiss 3/20
I'm such a nerd...

Floccina writes:

I only got 12 out of 20 despite the fact that I was a low wage cook in a restaurant at age 27. I think that this show that the old saying "We are not poor we just do not have any money." is true. I did not make much money back then but I was never poor.

Chris Koresko writes:

This 'elite bubble' might be another way of describing what Rasmussen describes as the 'political class'. These are (in my mind at least) the people who describe the Federal government in conversation as 'we'.

The 'political class' is apparently a fairly distinct group in the sense that members are readily and consistently identifiable by their polling responses.

I'm not sure about this, but it may be that a histogram of a metric of 'political classness' is double-peaked. It might be interesting to see whether that is true for 'elite bubbleness' as well.

Andrew writes:

I guess at 16 out of 20 I really don't belong here. I didn't realize I was surrounding myself with a bunch of elitists on the internets. \sarcasm

Becky Hargrove writes:

Ten out of twenty sounds about right, having grown up in a small town. Even though I've lived in lots of places, some were more 'bubble like' than others, to be sure.

Ivin Rhyne writes:

I scored 18/20. Mostly because I have served in the armed forces, worked on a tomato cannery floor, and was raised by parents who were a waitress and construction worker.

The funny thing about this quiz is that it is broad enough to cover any time in my life things happened. So the greyhound bus trip when I was 8 when my family moved bought me points. But today I am surrounded by people who would score 0-5 points on this scale and be proud of it.

I am comfortable in both worlds, but I get the point. There ARE separate worlds. I have never bought the 1% vs. 99% argument, but I do believe there are two Americas. One that is more rural and unfiltered, and the other that is urbane and rarefied.

Most of my friends and colleagues never move between the two.

Tom West writes:

In other words, your bubble is so thick you may not even know you're in one.


ThomasL writes:

7 (aka, between 5 and 8).

I'm not sure the test quite captures living in small towns in the South now and most of my life though...

EP writes:

I think the test itself is kinda elitist and sterotyped. Do you have to be a member of the elites to dislike smoking? Your not going to find a lot of evangelicals or Nascar fans in a working class, Catholic community, like parts of Chicago. Being female, I have watched many of Oprah's shows, but am not interested in the Transformers. Where I grew up, there were not many factory jobs, but many people worked at restaurants and retail stores.

Joe Cushing writes:

It's not a very good test. I suppose one would be hard to make with only 20 questions. I've never ridden one of the brands of buses they talked about but I do remember riding a dolmus in Turkey. Just one more. I never worked in a factory but I have worked in retail, fast food, and I drove a truck while in grad school--and almost 3 years after grad school. I never found a job after grad school actually. Now I'm unemployed.

Kenneth A. Regas writes:

The really elite private high schools nowadays have students spend a semester in France or Spain. I think they would get a richer cultural experience spending a semester in a small town outside the Northeast.

When he was an undergraduate at Brown University, Kevin Roose had about the same idea. He enrolled at Liberty University ("Bible bootcamp" according to the late founder Jerry Fallwell) for a semester. His book about the experience is a fun read, sweet and fair-minded.


PrometheeFeu writes:

I scored 3/20 and I consider it a win! I have always thought that being discriminating was a positive thing and that there was nothing good about being at the lowest denominator. If that puts me in a bubble, so be it. I invite you to join me in the bubble. It's real nice in here. We don't get cancer from smoking cigarettes for instance.

I also would like to point out that when Charles Murray in his little clip complains about America coming apart due to a lack of commonality, I think he is forgetting a lot of people. 50 years ago, women couldn't open a bank account without their husband's permission in many states. Black people were denied all sorts of rights ranging from free association to freedom of movement. The idea that there was a common american experience is really absurd.

Steve Sailer writes:

This linked quiz is a very crude version of the quiz that's actually in Murray's book, which is scored on a 0 to 100 scale. The real version is quite subtle and surprisingly accurate. For example, I scored like "a first generation upper-middle class person with middle class parents," which is right on the money.

cmprostreet writes:

I scored 12/20 on the certificate, but between 13 and 16 at the bottom. Maybe I should have kept count of my own answers.

I agree with the other criticisms of the quiz- the questions are in many cases too specific to be useful:

I had to answer no to having worked in a factory, but I have worked grounds crew on a golf course, stockboy in a hardware store, and I spent a year as a steelworker torching and welding steel pipe.

I don't have any close friends who are evangelical christians, but I have several not-close friends who are, plus my mother and an aunt.

I haven't purposely hung out with someone who was smoking in the past month, but I have several times in the past year, and not terribly long ago I used to smoke a pack a day.

I haven't seen the third transformers movie, but I did see the first two and haven't had time to see the third yet.

I didn't recognize the NASCAR driver, but I've always been an oddity in that I don't watch sports at all.

I haven't been fishing or hunting in the past 5 years, but I have been hiking, ATV-ing, camping, and chopping wood.

I've never eaten at an Outback, but I've been to Friday's probably 10 times in the past year.

Never been to a Kiwanis or Rotary club meeting, but I've been to several American Legion meetings.

Ultimately, I think this test was geared largely toward the midwest rather than toward what it's purporting to measure.

Tom West writes:

If people are complaining about individual questions, then I think they're taking this test far too seriously.

I suspect that there's a fairly decent, but far from perfect correlation between scores and how closely you interact with working class Americans (and thus how in tune you are with their opinions, needs and desires). But it should be expected that any test of culture is going to be full of exceptions.

Unless one is of the "I'm in touch with the real 'America' and the rest of you aren't" mentality, I think the survey fulfills its purpose of forcing the taker to consider a little more carefully what sort of cultural self-selection we tend to consciously or unconsciously engage in.

That's about as far as the results should be taken.

Abel writes:

Well, they would get a richer cultural experience of their own country, as opposed to other countries. Whether that is a good or bad thing (or more exactly, for whom it is a good or bad thing), is not completely clear.

Waldo writes:

I think question 21 should be, "Do you feel compelled to lie about any of these questions?" I scored 14/20. I was relieved they didn't ask about my mobile home.

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