Are You Living in an Elitist Bubble? Take the Quiz

Charles Murray has designed a quiz he hopes will have "a salutary effect on bringing to people’s attention the degree to which they live in a bubble that seals them off from an awful lot of their fellow American citizens."

What's the Big Idea?

"You're probably living in an upper middle class bubble if..." A variety of patterns of behavior can be inserted to complete this sentence, such as Downton Abbey watching or the consumption of boutique beer.

And yet, even more telling behaviors are the types of activities that you may never have experienced. For instance, have you ever held a job that caused a body part to hurt at the end of the day? Let's say your feet ache because your job requires you to stand all day. "If you have never held such a job, you are intrinsically, inherently, ineluctably unable to understand the lives of a great many of your fellow countrymen who do hold such jobs."

So says the American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray, who designed a quiz to gauge whether certain Americans are living in a bubble, that is to say, blind to the behaviors and interests of most Americans. Murray presents this quiz in his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (now out in paperback) that diagnoses the problem of the divergence of the American classes since the 1960s.

Since much of Murray's audience is from the upper middle class, "I wanted to convince them of the degree to which they are isolated," he told Big Think in a recent interview. Quantitative data can only prove so much, so Murray said, “I’ll let them prove it to themselves.” And so Murray came up with a 25-item "Bubble quiz," which he lays out in the video below.

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

The narrow elite, Murray says, "have drawn away from the rest of the country and formed enclaves and cultures of their own." Their behaviors separate them from mainstream America in almost every way. So Murray hopes his quiz will have "a salutary effect on bringing to people’s attention the degree to which they live in a bubble that seals them off from an awful lot of their fellow American citizens."

While you will have to buy Charles Murray's book to take the full quiz, here is a 20-question spinoff that was inspired by his book:

How Thick Is Your Bubble?

Full disclosure: I took the quiz and realized that while I can "see through my bubble" I need to cut down on my Downton Abbey viewing and get out more!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit