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Posts Tagged ‘myths’

I hate to beat a dead horse. Well, maybe this horse I do want to beat, because it never actually gives up the ghost.

Over the last few years, I have complained about a meme propagated in the popular media, abetted by a few academics, that Americans are suffering an “epidemic” of loneliness. Repeatedly since at least 2011, if not earlier, I have argued that there is no reliable evidence for any real trend in loneliness–nor in social isolation (which is not the same thing)–over the last 40-plus years. But what can this little blog do when The New York Times and The Atlantic keep flogging the loneliness horse for all the clicks it can deliver?

Two comprehensive reports on the “loneliness epidemic” have just come out. Perhaps they will finally put down that nag. Probably not.

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The Myth that Never Moves

In a new book on the social costs of economic inequality — a book otherwise reasonable and well-documented — appears a long paragraph that the authors clearly thought needed no footnote or references, because it was so obvious. It is a paragraph about the social costs of increasing residential mobility. It reads in part:

People used to grow up knowing, and being known by, many of the same people all of their lives. Although geographical mobility had been increasing for several generations, the last half-century has seen a particularly rapid rise.

The authors go on to list and to bemoan the consequences, such as people’s identities being “cast adrift” and now “endlessly open to question” (Wilkinson and Pickett, The Spirit Level, 2009, p. 42).

This premise of increasing mobility, alas, is wrong, at least for the United States. It is more than wrong — the truth is exactly the opposite: Geographical mobility has been on the decline for generations.
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