Andrew Hacker teaches political science and mathematics at Queens College. His new book, The Math Myth and Other STEM ­Delusions, will appear next March.
 (July 2015)

Who Knows the American Mind?

Open Door Mission, Rochester, New York, 2012; photograph by Alex Webb from <i>Memory City</i>, his new book with Rebecca Norris Webb, published by Radius
Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center argues that surveys of public opinion are both necessary for democracy and based on equality. His The Next America opens: Opinion surveys allow the public to speak for itself. Each person has an equal chance to be heard. Each opinion is given an …

2014: Another Democratic Debacle?

President Barack Obama having lunch with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, May 2012
Here’s our current political situation: • A Democratic president has twice won the popular vote, both times by comfortable margins. • In the Senate, Democrats (with two independents) hold 55 percent of the seats, receiving nearly that share of the votes in their most recent races. • Republican now have …

How He Got It Right

Statistician Nate Silver, who correctly predicted the winner of all fifty states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 presidential election
Nate Silver called every state correctly in the last presidential race, and was wrong about only one in 2008. In 2012 he predicted Obama’s total of the popular vote within one tenth of a percent of the actual figure. His powers of prediction seemed uncanny. In his early and sustained prediction of an Obama victory, he was ahead of most polling organizations and my fellow political scientists. But buyers of his book, The Signal and the Noise, now a deserved best seller, may be in for something of a surprise.

Can Romney Get a Majority?

During the past century, how many Republican challengers have unseated Democratic presidents? Hint: there have been six such bids. Answer: only one, when Ronald Reagan turned out Jimmy Carter in 1980. This year, the GOP will be trying again. To do so, it will have to muster a majority for Romney and Ryan; in the electoral college, of course, but also among the voters, if it wants a victory viewed as legitimate.

The White Plight

Charles Murray has written another book about race. Much as The Bell Curve argued that many human beings of African heritage were genetically less intelligent than most whites, so Coming Apart addresses the deficiencies of Americans of European origin. He charges large swaths of “white America”—his designation—with indolence, self-indulgence, and failing to understand the nation’s “founding virtues” of honesty, industriousness, marriage, and religion. An air of despair pervades the book.

We’re More Unequal Than You Think

Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a self-made man, at his rich fiancée’s house with her brother Ned (Lew Ayres) and the butler (Thomas Braidon), in George Cukor’s <i>Holiday</i>, 1938
Imagine a giant vacuum cleaner looming over America’s economy, drawing dollars from its bottom to its upper tiers. Using US Census reports, I estimate that since 1985, the lower 60 percent of households have lost $4 trillion, most of which has ascended to the top 5 percent, including a growing tier now taking in $1 million or more each year.

The Next Election: The Surprising Reality

Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul at the first Republican presidential debate for the 2012 election, Manchester, New Hampshire, June 13, 2011
Obama could do worse than revisit the “Had Enough?” slogan of 1946, which gave Republicans control of Congress, in circumstances that have some parallels with 2010. Harry Truman gave the GOP time to compile a record, and then set out for a full term of his own. In June 1948, he told a Bremerton, Washington, rally: “They are going…to tell you what a great Congress they have been. If you believe that, you are bigger suckers than I think you are.”

Where Will We Find the Jobs?

President Obama with a graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan after he delivered the commencement address, June 2010
It may seem that high US unemployment will never go away and will continue to plague our political life. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2018, the economy, growing at an annual rate of 2.4 percent, will have some 166 million paying positions, up 10 percent …

Can We Make America Smarter?

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Arne Duncan, Obama’s secretary of education, with elementary school children at Dodge Renaissance Academy, Chicago, December 16, 2008
However the current economic crisis is resolved, the future living standard of Americans will turn on how productive we are and how much other countries will want what we create. The challenge goes beyond restructuring institutions. More crucial is whether we will be astute enough to hold our own in …

Obama: The Price of Being Black

In May, Hillary Clinton described many of her core supporters as “hard-working Americans, white Americans.” Primary voting in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia confirmed her surmise. Her remark seemed, without saying so, to claim an advantage over Obama that was due to his race. But there’s more we need to …

They’d Much Rather Be Rich

“I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor,” the cabaret entertainer Sophie Tucker was once heard to say, famously adding, “and believe me, rich is better.” Avner Offer disagrees. In his view, the spread of affluence not only corrupts character, but has caused all these disorders and discontents: family breakdown, addiction, …

The Rich and Everyone Else

In their own ways, three of the books under review—Class Matters, Inequality Matters, and The Chosen—warn that social barriers in the US are higher and economic inequality is more pronounced than at any time in recent memory. All three books also frame this issue by asserting or implying that lines …

The Truth About the Colleges

Higher education in America is no longer the preserve of a privileged elite, with more than seven million undergraduates now enrolled in the roughly 2,600 colleges and universities that grant bachelor or higher degrees. In 2002, the most recent year for which figures are available, 1,291,900 students received bachelors’ diplomas …

Patriot Games

Samuel Huntington opens his book by declaring that he writes “as a patriot,” a position that leads him to be “deeply concerned about the unity and strength” of his country. He also fears that patriotism is an endangered sentiment. In fact, as Huntington presents it, l’amour patrie has long been …

The Underworld of Work

Downsizing in America opens with excerpts from mid-1990s articles in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal telling of longtime workers from firms like Kodak, General Motors, and IBM who had recently lost their jobs. But, the authors ask, was this a fair account? “Did companies actually reduce the …

Saved?

Table A Table B Table C Thanks to Sandra Day O’Connor, affirmative action is still alive. Race can continue to be a factor in university admissions, although not as explicitly as it sometimes was in the past. But resistance to affirmative action remains strong, particularly within the …

Gays and Genes

It sometimes seems that as much attention is given to the causes of homosexuality as to the causes of any other aspect of human variation. Heterosexuals are fascinated by this minority in their midst, and homosexuals seem equally curious about themselves. Indeed, almost everyone feels free to float ideas on …

Gore Family Values

Table A Table B Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson and Albert Arnold Gore Jr. met at a prep school prom in 1964, when she was sixteen and he was a year older. They began dating steadily, and married soon after she finished college. They have been together ever since. By …