In Bobos in Paradise, Brooks examines the New York Times wedding page from the 1950s. He finds that "the page was a galaxy of restricted organizations". Jobs were barely mentioned but club memberships, prep schools and Ivy League universities were. The accomplishments of brides are barely mentioned aside from attendance at prestigious prep schools. Brooks sees this as evidence that in the 50s an "aristocratic ruling class" held sway in America. Its members had no qualms about being a chosen few and denying admittance to Jews and other non-Wasp groups. They were also anti-intellectual and looked down on "eggheads". They avoided gaudy displays of money while unashamedly drawing their status from wealth. Their lofty position was simply the natural order of things.
The years that followed ended the monopoly on riches and status previously enjoyed by the elites of 1950s society. Brooks calls this era the "hinge years". It saw the opening up of college admissions at the top schools as they were flooded by applicants from the middle class. SAT scores for freshmen being admitted to Harvard increased exponentially. The new students came from across the nation, not just from the "social elite" of the Northeast. The number of graduates exploded, and many were women.
The sixties, Brooks writes, saw "a challenge to conventional notions of success". The graduates of that decade valued achievement above all and would never drop out. Educational achievement was not initially awarded in the marketplace, but a degree would eventually raise incomes by almost 100 percent compared with the value of a high school diploma.