Social Trends in American Life assembles a team of leading researchers to provide unparalleled insight into how American social attitudes and behaviors have changed since the 1970s. Drawing on the General Social Survey--a social science project that has tracked demographic and attitudinal trends in the United States since 1972--it offers a window into diverse facets of American life, from intergroup relations to political views and orientations, social affiliations, and perceived well-being. Among the book's many important findings are the greater willingness of ordinary Americans to accord rights of free expression to unpopular groups, to endorse formal racial equality, and to accept nontraditional roles for women in the workplace, politics, and the family. Some, but not all, signs indicate that political conservatism has grown, while a few suggest that Republicans and Democrats are more polarized. Some forms of social connectedness such as neighboring have declined, as has confidence in government, while participation in organized religion has softened.
Despite rising standards of living, American happiness levels have changed little, though financial and employment insecurity has risen over three decades. Social Trends in American Life provides an invaluable perspective on how Americans view their lives and their society, and on how these views have changed over the last two generations.
Peter V. Marsden is the Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of Sociology, Harvard College Professor, and Dean of Social Science at Harvard University. He coedited the second edition of the Handbook of Survey Research.
Preface and Acknowledgments ix Contributors xiii 1 Introduction and Overview 1 Peter V. Marsden Trends in Social and Political Orientations 2 On the Seemingly Relentless Progress in Americans' Support for Free Expression, 1972-2006 19 James A. Davis 3 The Real Record on Racial Attitudes 38 Lawrence D. Bobo, Camille Z. Charles, Maria Krysan, and Alicia D. Simmons 4 Gender Role Attitudes since 1972: Are Southerners Distinctive? 84 Karen E. Campbell and Peter V. Marsden 5 Public Opinion in the "Age of Reagan": Political Trends 1972-2006 117 Jeff Manza, Jennifer A. Heerwig, and Brian J. McCabe 6 Crime, Punishment, and Social Disorder: Crime Rates and Trends in Public Opinion over More Than Three Decades 146 James D. Wright, Jana L. Jasinski, and Drew Noble Lanier Changes in Confidence and Connections 7 Trends in Confidence in Institutions, 1973-2006 177 Tom W. Smith 8 Continuity and Change in American Religion, 1972-2008 212 Mark Chaves and Shawna Anderson 9 Trends in Informal Social Participation, 1974-2008 240 Peter V. Marsden and Sameer B. Srivastava Stability and Flux in Social Indicators 10 Income, Age, and Happiness in America 267 Glenn Firebaugh and Laura Tach 11 Religion and Happiness 288 Michael Hout and Andrew Greeley 12 Labor Force Insecurity and U.S. Work Attitudes, 1970s-2006 315 Arne L. Kalleberg and Peter V. Marsden 13 Population Trends in Verbal Intelligence in the United States 338 Duane F. Alwin and Julianna Pacheco Appendix: The General Social Survey Project 369 Peter V. Marsden and Tom W. Smith Index 379