Honig ’15 Examines Class Divides – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Honig ’15 Examines Class Divides

As the semester comes to a close, Nick Honig ’15 is already planning his honors project for next year, an examination of the ways in which race, economic practices, jobs, religion and way of life affect two small, contrasting New York cities: Pittsford and Geneva.

It was in Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman’s class on Modern American Conservatism that Honig read Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

“I remember thinking that Murray’s arguments were provocative, cynical, and extremely compelling,” says Honig, a political science major and a Writing Colleague minor.  

According to Murray, Honig says, “The way Americans live is the most important factor in the growing rift between rich and poor because the way Americans learn to make lifestyle choices is self-perpetuating and passed from generation to generation. This widening rift between the upper and lower classes is a result of a sharp decline in the lower class presence of what Murray calls the ‘founding virtues’: marriage, religiosity, industriousness, and honesty. According to Murray’s research, the lower class is unyieldingly poor, has a higher rate of unmarried individuals, and a higher number of unmarried mothers, a higher unemployment rate, and a higher number of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated citizens.”

In his honors project, Honig will “examine Geneva through the same lenses that Charles Murray,” considering the class divides between and within two cities, but “while Murray focuses only on white America, I would extend my research to include all races,” Honig says. Murray frames his research by referring to a typical upper class American town as ‘Belmont’ and calling a typical lower-class town as ‘Fishtown.’ While Pittsford is clearly a Belmont, I am expecting to find that Geneva is not as disparate from Pittsford as a typical ‘Fishtown’ would be.”

Honig plans to gather data from censuses and other sources related to the demographics of families and households in both Geneva and Pittsford, examining the cities’ relationships with Murray’s “founding virtues” and the differing levels of social capital between the two towns, such as organizations, groups and community activities.

After graduation Honig has ambitions to attend law school, though admits he is unsure about which branch of law. “I think this project will help me narrow my choices,” he says. “I am going to closely examine marriage statistics, religious affiliations, employment data, and incarceration rates over the course of this project. I hope that studying these various topics will provide me with a direction to pursue during my law studies.”