Theodore Caplow is the Commonwealth Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia.
He is a co-author of The First Measured Century and Recent Social Trends in the United States, 1960-1990. He is the author of American Social Trends among many other works.
Professor Caplow was a co-founder of the International Research Group for the Comparative Charting of Social Change and directs the Groupís U.S. activities. Professor Caplow was the principal investigator of the Middletown III project and is principal investigator of Middletown IV.
New River Media Interview with: Theodore Caplow
QUESTION: Explain a bit about the first Middletown study.
THEODORE CAPLOW: Robert and Helen Lynd went to Muncie, Indiana in 1924, with a commission to study grassroots religion. And they came back in 1925 with a marvelous study of social change, having used 1890 as the baseline and gotten all sorts of retrospective information from people who were still alive and from documents. And they constructed the authoritative story of what had happened to a typical American community in that generational period.
It's a wonderful book, Middletown, published in 1929. [It] almost didn't get published, because the sponsors, the Rockefeller Institute for Social and Religious Research were shocked by the fact that the little study of grassroots religion had turned into a comprehensive examination of a whole society. It took the intervention of Clark Wissler, who was chairman of the board of the Museum of Natural History to get the book published.
It then became the first sociological bestseller. It's been in print ever since. The whole 70 years it's never been out of print. It's a great book.
QUESTION: What were the main findings of the Lynds in the book?
THEODORE CAPLOW: They discovered the scandal of class. Most Americans at the time had been brought up to believe that we live in a democracy, where everybody is essentially equal, though admittedly some people are richer than others. The Lynds discovered in Middletown that there was a business class, as they called it, and a working class, and that they were as different as two different tribes. Their conditions of life were different. Their values were different. Their expectations were different. And there wasn't, they thought, much passage between the two. That was what made the book exciting.
But they did all sorts of other things. They looked at the influence of the automobile on the sex habits on the population. They considered the enormous stability that religion had showed from 1890 to 1924. It's a very comprehensive and careful examination.
It is based on not just one kind of sociological data, but everything they could think of, including some of the earliest good surveys that ever were done. Their attendance at all kinds of civic and private celebrations, a great deal of interviewing, a good deal of examination of documents, careful review of newspapers. There wasn't any phase of life in the community they didn't touch. They had a lot of assistance. It represents some thousands of man hours, and it's a very careful job.
I encountered Robert Lynd as an undergraduate of Columbia and was fascinated. I took to haunting his office, and he gave me more time than I'm afraid I would give to an undergraduate these days, and eventually suggested that I change my major from history to sociology and go to the University of Chicago to study with the people he admired there. And I had very little contact with him until he retired in 1959, I believe, and I came back to Columbia and took not exactly his place, but at least I took his office.
Some years after that, one of my graduate students suggested that the time had come to do another study of Middletown. I should have mentioned that Robert Lynd, not Helen, went back to Muncie in 1935 to trace the influence of the Depression on the community. And they published a book called Middletown in Transition. We call that Middletown II. It was a much less thorough job. It wasn't intended to be a thorough social survey. It was a consideration really of one point: what the Depression had down to Middletown. What they found was it hadn't done as much as you'd expect. It's an interesting book.
By 1935 Robert Lynd had a much more negative view of American society than he'd had in 1924. And a great deal of that book is devoted to an exposition of the fact that Middletown had a dominant family, which he called the X family, actually the Balls of Ball Glass. And during the Depression they had used the fact that they still had resources when other people didn't to extend a good deal of control over the community. Even to this day the hospital and the university are named after them.
There were other leading families to which Lynd paid much less attention. Curiously, Muncie in the heart of Hoosier country was in a way the place from which the conquest of the West was furnished, because two of its products, Ball Glass jars and barbed wire, made by Indiana Wire and Steel were the two essential items for the frontier.
The Lynds never talked about consumerism. The term hadn't been invented. And they certainly did not think that anything was bringing the two classes together. They were impressed by the fact that this whole complicated society had sprung up rather suddenly around what had been a market center for an agricultural center thirty or forty years before. You have to remember that most of the people who lived in Muncie in 1924 had grown up on farms.
QUESTION: What kind of criteria were used to select Muncie?
THEODORE CAPLOW: They wanted a place that was as unexceptional as possible, with nothing outstanding about it, and that is true of Middletown to this day; less so perhaps than it was then, because at that time they could say that it had nothing outstanding, no famous historical events that ever occurred there. It had never been the home of a famous character. It had very few foreign-born people and practically no minorities. And that was what they liked about it. They were looking for in a sense the essence of plain Americanism.
The Middletown one study does not really contain a critique of consumerism. It contains a critique of class stratification, and the fact that the business class as they saw it were not only exploiting the working class, but also attempting to control them ideologically. There was a movement called "Magic Middletown." There was boosterism. Lynd devotes a lot of space to how squalid the typical working man's home was. And you have to remember that the great mechanization of the American home had barely started in 1924. Very few working class families would have had either running water or central heat. It's rather hard for us to realize. Since many of them lived in houses that are still occupied today, but the equipment was entirely different.
One of the most interesting trends in the twentieth century in the United States and also in Europe was the extraordinary mechanization of the home, which is now so far advanced that we have trouble visualizing how unmechanized the American home was earlier in the century. But it's important to realize that by 1924, even though many working class families had acquired automobiles, a great many of them had not yet acquired central heat or running water.
QUESTION: What happened between Middletown II in the 1930s, and when the next study, Middletown III, took place in the 1970s?
THEODORE CAPLOW: We are still using the distinction between business class and working class, but two things have happened in the interim, had already happened by 1977, when we did Middletown III, and are even more salient today after Middletown IV [the current study].
The two things that happened were that the relative number of white collar occupations increased greatly between 1924 and 1977, not only in Middletown but in the United States, and not only in the United States but in the whole Western world. The other thing that happened is that many of the differences between the business class and the working class eroded rapidly. For example, in 1924 very few working class parents aspired or expected to send their children to college, whereas practically all business class parents did. In 1977 there was virtually no difference between the two groups in that respect, and the rates of college attendance were not all that different.
To some extent, certainly not identical, but to some - there was some convergence, a good deal of convergence. For example, no working class person would have dreamed of playing golf in 1924. In 1977 it was commonplace. But on the other hand, the incidence of golfers and membership in the country clubs still gave you a pretty sharp division between the two groups.
There is still, for example, a conspicuous difference in exposure to unemployment. It's not as conspicuous as it was. In 1924 it was pretty nearly absolute. That is, Lynd couldn't find anybody in the business class who had been unemployed, whereas it was a normal and routine occurrence in the working class.
There's another very interesting aspect of that, and that is that in 1924 business class women never worked. Married women just didn't work. It was unthinkable. Working class women did quite often, but intermittently, and they went out and looked for work when their husbands were unemployed, because they had to keep food on the table. By 1977, in Middletown III that difference had almost disappeared because about half, nearly half of all business class women were now employed. And by now in 1999 it's considerably more than half who are employed. So that's changed greatly.
QUESTION: What has happened to the Lynds' working class distinction?
THEODORE CAPLOW: Well, you begin to have problems of classification, of course, because in 1924 the distinction was clean. People working with tools and materials were mainly employed in big factories, and a few of them in artisan shops. And the people who worked with symbols and ideas were all employed in offices, a few perhaps in retail stores. So that was easy to do.
It's much harder to do with current occupations. That is, whether a computer repairman should be called white collar or blue collar is a challenging question. But the notion that the working class has disappeared is absurd. For the country as a whole, people currently classify it as blue collar. In 1995, by one careful estimate, 48 percent of the male labor force was blue collar. There's been a great erosion and that's very important. But no one would conceivably describe them, as the Lynds did in 1924, as two separate tribes.
There's been a great erosion of the cultural differences, accomplished by the universalization of high school education and partially of college education, by radio and television, by other aspects of the popular culture, and by the mechanization of the home, because the enormous differences between the comfortable homes of the business class and the squalid homes of the working class have pretty much disappeared. They're still very different in size and comfort, but they have basically pretty much the same equipment.
QUESTION: What had happened to Lynd's own point of view by the mid-1930s?
THEODORE CAPLOW: You could say he'd been radicalized. He was much more critical of what he found in Middletown in 1935, and that possibly had to do with the fact that [his wife] Helen was not with him. This was something he did by himself and did fairly rapidly. He was much more concerned with the politics and he did in some respects find flaws in the community that he hadn't perceived in the earlier study. There is virtually no mention of prostitution in Middletown I. In Middletown II he discovers that for a long time, long before 1924, Middletown had had a large red light district and served as the center for prostitution for the entire local area. So there were all sorts of things that he hadn't seen or hadn't paid any attention to in the earlier study that now appeared to him to be important.
You must remember that in 1935 most American intellectuals were uneasy about the future of our social and economic system. It had nearly collapsed. About a third of the labor force had been unemployed at one point in 1933. The stock market had lost more than 80 percent of its value. Thousands of businesses had gone bankrupt. Europe was in the turmoil of the growth of fascism. And what Lynd and some other people were afraid of was that the tensions in Middletown, the inability to resolve economic problems might lead the country to fascism. Lynd was expecting to find a greater impact than he actually found.
QUESTION: What about religion in Middletown/Muncie?
THEODORE CAPLOW: Well, remember the original idea of the Middletown I study was that it was going to examine grassroots religion. And it only incidentally expanded into a general social survey. So religion has always been at the center of the Middletown studies and it continues to be. And it's fascinating, because in some respects it hasn't changed at all. You can take the sermon topics of 1999, they look almost identical with those of 1924; in many cases, not very different from those of 1890.
If you look at the answers to the critical questions about religion and personal faith in the community survey, the 1999 responses are turning out identical with those of 1977 and those of 1924. Middletown is for most of its inhabitants a place where they practice fairly intense religion.
Now, there are differences. The greatest difference is that in 1924 that they were sure that their religion was the only right religion, and that everybody else should be converted to it. By 1977 they no longer thought so. Another difference is that religion - rules that had nothing to do with religion but were church related, like what you could do on Sundays, had considerable influence in 1924 and very little influence by 1977, but strangely enough they have little more influence in 1999 than they had 22 years ago. Church attendance is higher than it was in 1924, but that's largely because the working class couldn't afford church or couldn't afford the clothes for church back then.
But the phenomenon of Middletown's religion is something that has puzzled sociologists not just about Middletown, but about the United States, because while Western Europe, with whom we share most of our social trends, has been secularizing since World War II, we haven't been going in that direction at all.
QUESTION: What about changing attitudes toward government?
THEODORE CAPLOW: The federal government was simply a distant presence [at the time of Middletown I]. There was a U.S. attorney in Indianapolis, who occasionally made a visit to Middletown, and there was a post office. And that was about it. There was, of course, no social security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no OSHA, no EPA. The federal government was something you tended to every four years when there was a presidential election, and that attracted considerable interest and it had some importance in wartime. There were some veterans of the Spanish-American War, even a few Civil War veterans and a good many World War I veterans who received small pensions. But the federal government was just not an important part of the picture.
In 1977 we counted something like fifty-two federal programs operating in Middletown, and now it would certainly be over a hundred. And a considerable part of the local labor force works directly for the federal government, although they don't recognize any common identity. There is no association of federal employees. People who work for the federal government in one capacity or another have the same general distrust of it that people who don't express it. [But] there's been a dramatic shift from a real resistance to any ideas of federal intervention in local affairs to soliciting grants for various purposes, which the city and county governments do all the time.
What we do find is that with respect to nationalist attitudes, and whether the United States is always right in its dealings with other countries and so on, there has been remarkably little change over this seventy-five year period. The high school students are still surprisingly patriotic, surprisingly if you think of the fact that they are supposed to be disillusioned and that they are very suspicious of government. But the typical Middletown adolescent or adult does not identify the country with the government. They have little confidence in the federal government, but a great attachment to the United States.
In 1977 faith in government was a little higher than it is today, but attachment to the country was about the same. With one qualification, and that is in 1924, female respondents, particularly in the high school survey, were more patriotic and more attached to the United States, more inclined to think it was the best country in the world than male respondents. By 1977 most of that difference had disappeared. By 1999 it has reversed. Women, particularly young women, are far more skeptical and cynical and less likely to express national sentiments than men are.
QUESTION: Can you explain the process of doing the current, 1999 study, what we are calling Middletown IV?
THEODORE CAPLOW: Well, I should make it clear that the 1999 effort, Middletown IV is a very limited effort, compared to Middletown I , or Middletown III . It looks more like Middletown II . The current project is restricted to replicating the most important of the Lynds original surveys: one survey of the entire high school population, by means of an administered questionnaire; and the other a survey of a random sample of married women living with their husbands and children; that is to say, women in intact families. Now that's a very small fraction of what we did in 1977 or what the Lynds did in 1924. But it's all we were able to do, and those two surveys have given us more information about trends than any of the other operations involved in this long series of studies. So that's why we did it.
QUESTION: Why do you suppose the Lynds noted class differentiation in the way they did? And does the observation still hold?
THEODORE CAPLOW: It was forced upon them by the fact that they looked attentively at the community. You couldn't help seeing it. It was perfectly obvious that the community was bifurcated in that way. Middletown is only the first of a dozen important studies. The best known is probably the series of studies produced by W. Lloyd Warner and his associates of a place they called Yankee City, which is actually Newburyport, Massachusetts, where they found even more intense stratification than the Lynds did.
Then there's another set of studies by Hollingshead that was a Midwestern community that he called Elmstown. And that too I doubt very much you could have looked at any American community in the 1920s and 1930s and been struck by the enormous gaps between the people on top and the people at the bottom.
[Since then] it's changed in an uneven fashion. With respect to the stratification of income and wealth, in the quality of income and wealth, we made considerable progress from the 1920s to the 1950s. We're now about back where we were in the 1920s with a great deal of dis-equalization going on, particularly in the last decade or so. If you look at the Gini coefficient, which as you know measures the inequality of a distribution, then the United States has now the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any developed country by a very wide margin.
With respect to educational inequality there's been enormous progress, so that while there are still differences that are quite trifling between people of more or less affluence, in large measure that's because the colleges and universities have worked out a system for in effect taxing people according to their means. So if you go to Harvard from a rich family you pay some $30,000-odd a year and if you go to Harvard as some local people have done from a poor farm family, then you pay virtually nothing. The university arranges a packet of financial benefits that get you through. You live more comfortably if you come from a rich family, but you get through either way.
QUESTION: What are the most important changes you can see from the Middletown IV, the current study?
THEODORE CAPLOW: The family has changed enormously and most of the changes have occurred not so much from 1924 to 1999 as from let's say 1960 to 1999.
We see this, when we compare 1977 to 1999 in our surveys that the changes were underway, for example women going to work by 1977, they were well underway. But they hadn't reach anywhere near where they have today.
Let's take some of the most obvious ones. In 1924 married women with children did not work. Period. Just wasn't done. It would have been regarded as criminally irresponsible. Besides, there was sentiment that a woman who worked took away a job from a man. And the only excuse for a woman working was either that she was unmarried and needed to support herself, or that her husband was unemployed and she was working temporarily. In 1999 the great majority of married women with small children work, something over 60 percent. The great majority of married women, regardless of social class, work. Divorced women work even more. The lowest employment rates are actually found among unmarried women with children.
So the whole system has been turned around. That's one great change. In 1924 premarital sexual activity was heavily tabooed, although it occurred. But there were serious sanctions against it. In 1999 there are no sanctions at all to speak of. Curiously enough, that does not apply to extramarital sexual activities. As far as we can determine, adultery is viewed and perhaps sanctioned more severely today than it was in 1924. So there is a very wide gap between the view of premarital and extramarital sex.
In 1924 there are no figures for cohabitation, because cohabitation was legally very difficult, virtually impossible. As a matter of fact, even in 1977 cohabitation is pretty difficult. The Mann Act is still being sporadically enforced, which means that a cohabiting couple going from Maryland to Virginia could be arrested under federal law. In addition, in 1977 you still have laws against false registration in hotels being enforced, and you have the universal policy by banks and other lenders that they would not lend to unmarried couples. So cohabitation was practically very difficult. Now it's easy as marriage, in some respects easier. And this is a vast change in legal and customary practice.
Finally, you have non-marital births. In 1924 they did occur. They were regarded about as favorably as axe murderers. And the child was normally either sent to an orphanage or put up for adoption. But there was no thought that an unmarried mother should raise her own children. Some exception here for the black population, where there were a small number, but very small by modern standards of non-marital births - those children were raised in families that were often two- or three- or four-generation families composed of women. It was a kind of West Indian pattern that occasionally was seen, but it was pretty rare in Middletown.
Now we have a situation where the great majority of black children are born out of wedlock, and about a fifth of white children as well, and without any particular sanctions, in fact without any expectation that there's anything abnormal about this. So here again we see something that looks not like the collapse of the family, because the family is still a very strong institution in many respects, but a drastic change in its rules and regulations.
QUESTION: What about the amount of time spent on housework?
THEODORE CAPLOW: We have a chart which refers to the daily housework reported by Middletown housewives in 1924, 1977 and 1999. And it is pretty spectacular, because just about one-third of the housewives interviewed in 1999 reported doing one hour or less per day. The corresponding figure for 1924 is zero. No way you could keep house with less than an hour's work per day. At the other end of the scale in 1924 almost 90 percent reported four hours or more of housework. In 1999, 12 percent did. So that, of course, is where all that transition of female labor into the paid labor force has occurred.
The details are worth considering. To do laundry in 1924, without any electric washing machines, was an all-day task that had to be done every week. Moreover, we're talking about women in intact families. Work was much dirtier in those days, and clothing was much more difficult to handle. There were no synthetics and no polyesters. And after the clothes had been washed, they had to be dried and there was only one way to do that, which was to hang them out to dry, regardless of the weather. And then when they were taken in, they had to be ironed or they wouldn't be wearable. And all in all, doing the laundry for a family might consume two and a half woman days in 1924. Now, of course, it takes so little time that it's hardly reckoned into the household budget. And the same is true of cooking, food preparation, cleaning. In all respects housework has been drastically simplified and that is why women are now able, at the same time that they are effectively compelled, to join the labor force.
QUESTION: What about time spent with children?
THEODORE CAPLOW: One of the results that looks paradoxical here, because everybody knows about the great pressure that women have in reconciling their work role and their roles as wives and mothers, we find that they spend more time with their children and so do fathers than they did in 1977 and much more time than they did in 1924.
When you look at the details that becomes fairly explicable. Both men and women worked longer hours, longer weeks and longer years in 1924 than they do now. By wide margins. Remember, the work day in 1924 was anywhere from ten to twelve hours and typically five and a half or six days. And we've talked about this enormous commitment to housework that women had. Childcare was also considerably more difficult, because there were more children, the school day and the school year were shorter, and just the mechanics of preparing meals and keeping clothes clean and getting children off to school were more complicated. So there was less quality time, if you like, to be spent with children.
Moreover, outside childcare hadn't been invented. There was no such thing as nursery school. And that great mechanical device for distracting small children, television, hadn't been developed yet. Consequently, both men and women were overstressed by comparison with their successors today; much more so in the working class than the business class because their hours were longer, their resources were less, they had no household help. Their hours, by the way, were spectacularly longer. People who worked in offices worked perhaps a third fewer hours than people who worked in factories at the time. And that's one of the things that's equalized.
So we found in the 1977 survey that working class people were getting up later in the morning than they had in 1924, when most of them were getting up in the dark for most of the year. Strangely enough in 1999 we find the women again moving in the other direction; they're getting up earlier. A surprising proportion get up before 5:00 A.M. But this seems to have to do not so much with the volume of their work measured in work hours, as the difficulty in reconciling different obligations and different schedules: taking children to the doctor, for example, as against meeting the requirements of an office schedule.
QUESTION: What about the role of fathers in parenting?
THEODORE CAPLOW: Well, fathers generally speaking have the same problems with their children they used to have, but there seems to be a shift from father-son conflict to mother-daughter conflict, which plays well for fathers. Like mothers, they spend more time with their children than they used to. There are relatively few problems of any profound sort reported from intact families; that is to say, families where children live with their natural parents. There are lots of problems in single parent families, whether headed by a woman or a man. They are almost invariably connected with all kinds of social and psychological disorder. You also have a rather interesting set of problems in stepparent families; stepfathers seeming to have more trouble than stepmothers. But the relationship of stepfathers with adolescent children is often an unhappy one.
QUESTION: What has changed in family life in general?
THEODORE CAPLOW: What strikes us about the abundant data concerning parent-child relationships in these two surveys is how little they have changed in intact families. The same disagreements, the same values at both sides. Adolescents want parents who respect their opinions. They want parents to spend time with them. Parents are a little less likely to want obedience, but more likely to encourage independence. But they particularly want children who are honest with them.
The sources of disagreement are almost exactly what they were in 1924, things like choice of friends and weird styles of hair and clothing, attendance an un-chaperoned parties, coming in too late at night. It's the same picture. There's very little difference. And we get the same impression that not much has changed in family life over four generations, when we look at the number of evenings spent at home. In 1999 there are slightly more adolescents who spend seven nights away from home - that is seven evenings out - than there were in 1924, but it's not a notable difference, and the average is almost precisely the same. For high school students in general about three and a half evenings outside per normal week.
So not much seems to have changed, except that when we look at another part of the questionnaire we discover that nearly half of these high school students are not living with both natural parents. And that, of course, undermines the picture considerably. However, it must be noted that this nearly half who are living either in single-parent families or reconstituted families still report basically about the same relationships with their parents as those in intact families. As far at least as superficial elements are concerned, there's not a whole lot of difference.
QUESTION: Can we tell anything about political attitudes?
THEODORE CAPLOW: I think what we conclude, looking at the 1999 data, is that it doesn't really make sense to talk about general attitudes of conservatism or liberalism, because the trends run opposite on very specific items. We have a question taken literally from the 1924 questionnaire that was asked in 1977 and 1999 about what is popularly called the Protestant ethic. I think it reads something like, "It's the fault of the man himself if he does not succeed." - and we didn't change the wording out of political correctness, because as far as possible we try never to change wordings. And more young people accept that proposition as true now than in 1977 or even 1924. That's really quite startling.
On the other hand, we have another question about "The fact that some people have so much more money than others, so there's something wrong with this country." And there we get more people taking the liberal point of view in 1999 than in either 1977 or 1924. So you really have to look at each item by itself and realize that the mosaic of attitudes that are current at any given time don't necessarily or normally represent a drift in one direction or another, but the reaction to specific ideas.
QUESTION: What about economic change?
THEODORE CAPLOW: Well, let's take the overall picture. In 1924 you had prosperity, but it was prosperity 1924 style with very frequent unemployment for working class people, and a large part of the population living in what we would now consider the subsistence level. And the 1930s saw about a third of the labor force unemployed and the failure of many local enterprises, and the first signs of federal intervention in local affairs. The 1940s brought prosperity; the war brought a wave of prosperity to Muncie that lasted for pretty nearly the next generation.
When we did the 1977 study, it was sort of taken for granted that the community was well off. Then in the 1980s it was hit by a kind of local depression that was chronicled in a brief documentary film by Ben Wattenberg. Unemployment got up to 18 percent at one point in the early 1980s. And what was happening was that the heavy industry, sort of basic manufacturing industry on which Middletown had always depended, was being phased out. A number of the local plants never recovered. Some of them staggered on for some years. But the Ball Glass Jar company moved away, Indiana Wire and Steel, and the packing houses shut down. The Delco reduced its workforce and eventually shut down. The local glass plants beside Ball began to work half shifts.
By 1999 this process was complete. Middletown is no longer a manufacturing city. It has no major manufacturing plant, none at all. It's still structured in such a way that the whole south side is sort of designed to be the residential area for a factory workforce, but there are no factories to speak of. Nonetheless, it is prosperous. And that represents a shift to service industry that on the whole has been successful by being piecemeal. Nobody completely understands the reasons for Muncie's or Middletown's current prosperity, but nobody's complaining about it either.
Ball State [University] is now the largest employer by far in Muncie, and it, of course, benefits greatly from state and federal funds and from the importation of private funds from elsewhere in the state. So that if you're looking for a single engine that drives the service economy, it probably is the presence in the community of this large university.
QUESTION: How does Middletown III compare to Middletown IV?
THEODORE CAPLOW: In 1977 we tried to replicate the Lynds' 1924 study. In fact, ours lasted three years. The interviews were done in 1977, but we were still working there in 1979. And that meant a very variegated set of data sources, not only the two surveys that we've now replicated, there were nine other surveys, surveys of organizations, surveys of religious behavior, surveys of people's working lives, surveys of leisure activities.
In addition to which we gathered all sorts of observations, attended all sorts of events, followed the newspaper and did content analysis, interviewed people as to the historical events in which they'd participated. And did a great deal of just firsthand observation. We produced two books, fifty papers and have not nearly ever exhausted the material we gathered at that point. So it was a very large enterprise.
The Middletown IV study in 1999 was a shadow of this, because we could only replicate two surveys. We're very glad to have done it, in connection to "The First Measured Century," but it cannot give the same basis of information that the earlier study did. Just as Middletown II could only focus on a few points, so Middletown IV will tell us some things that are useful, while not completely replicating the original studies.
QUESTION: Was there anything surprising in your findings in Middletown IV?
THEODORE CAPLOW: I think the thing that surprised us the most was how well the community had resisted the two great outside interferences: the federal government and network television. They were present, they were visible, but they seem to have very much less effect on the behavior and attitudes of local people than we would have anticipated.
The most interesting thing to me is the question of whether there is still a clear local and regional character to this place. See, it's always been very useful because it somehow manages to track national trends very closely. Almost anything you get, the divorce rate, the average church attendance of Catholics, when you get it from Middletown you probably are pretty close to the national figure. But I've not had enough recent time in Middletown to really sense whether people feel as much integrated into a local culture as they used to. Most people who live in Middletown live there because - can you guess why? Because their relatives live there. That's the principle reason why Americans live where they do, because their kinfolk live there. Also, it's a safe place. The crime rate is perceived as low, even though it's somewhat higher than it used to be. It's a good place to raise children, because they run into relatively few conflicts and disturbances. But then they complain that it's limited, that it limits their horizons, that it doesn't have all the facilities a larger city would have.