# Did you grow up in a bubble? These ZIP codes suggest you did

Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, we asked you to take the bubble quiz, based on Charles Murray’s 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” meant to test how well you knew the average white American. Today, Charles Murray continues his exploration of the scores and ZIP codes from the bubble quiz in a second post. You can find his first post analyzing the results here.

If you want your child to grow up clueless about mainstream white America, what are the ZIP codes that have the best track record?

To answer that question, I used the 50,464 cases in which the respondents provided both a score on the bubble quiz and the ZIP code where they lived at age 10. (These were data available as of Wednesday morning when I started this exercise.) I asked my statistical software to calculate the median bubble score for every ZIP code represented in those 50,464 cases. Since I couldn’t make any judgments about ZIP codes that were represented by just a few people, I chose 10 as the lower limit of scores that I would examine more closely. There’s still a lot of room for oddball results with a sample size of 10, but this procedure gave me a useful starting point for examining patterns.

TAKE THE QUIZ: Do you live in a bubble?

And the winner is … ZIP code 10023. The median bubble score of the 16 people who had lived in 10023 at the age of 10 was 12.5. To give you an idea how low 12.5 is, a score of 12 puts one at the 3rd percentile of the entire sample. And a refresher — this quiz is out of 100. The higher your score, the thinner your bubble. The lower, the more insulated you might be from mainstream American culture. So, yes, 12.5 is a low score.

The location of this ZIP code is so stereotypically appropriate that many of you would have guessed correctly within a few miles. ZIP code 10023 is on New York’s Upper West Side, bordering Central Park from 59th to 76th, with a socioeconomic status percentile of 99.6. It’s in the heart of that chunk of Manhattan where New Yorkers are most certain that they live at the center of the universe and where the local culture is, to put it gently, somewhat different from the one in which most Americans live.

To give you a broader idea of which ZIP codes as children were associated with the lowest bubble scores as adults, I assembled data on the 75 ZIP codes that had samples of at least 10 and and median bubble scores of less than 25. Only 17 percent of the 50,464 had scores that low. In more technical terms, I identified ZIP codes with median scores at least one standard deviation below the mean for the entire sample.

Before showing you the 75 ZIP codes, I need to say a few words about the unrepresentativeness of the sample of people who visited the PBS NewsHour website and took the bubble test. They skew far above the national average on education and income. Specifically, the average socioeconomic status percentile of the current ZIP codes for people who took the bubble quiz was 78. Almost a quarter of the sample lived in ZIP codes at the 92nd percentile or higher. This skew makes it impossible to use the sample as nationally representative. But it does not hamper our ability to make statements about which ZIP codes are most strongly associated with low bubble scores, because, in effect, the skew has produced an oversampling of the people who are demographically most likely to have low scores.

The table shows the 75 ZIP codes, where they are and both their median bubble score and the socioeconomic status (SES) percentile of the ZIP code.

What’s the bubbliest place you could live? SES stands for socioeconomic status. Chart provided by the American Enterprise Institute.

In all, the table represents the scores of 1,247 people. A remarkable 31 percent of them came from just one metropolitan statistical area: New York City and its surrounding towns and cities. Twenty percent came from San Francisco, its suburbs to the north and east and the corridor extending down to San Jose. The Washington area contributed 11 percent, Los Angeles contributed 9 percent and Boston’s suburbs contributed 8 percent. In all, 79 percent came from these five areas, which contain just 15 percent of the nation’s population.