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The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competitionby Katherine Newman
Synopses & Reviews
Why are adults in their twenties and thirties stuck in their parents’ homes in the world’s wealthiest countries?
There’s no question that globalization has drastically changed the cultural landscape across the world. The cost of living is rising, and high unemployment rates have created an untenable economic climate that has severely compromised the path to adulthood for young people in their twenties and thirties. And there’s no end in sight. Families are hunkering down, expanding the reach of their households to envelop economically vulnerable young adults. Acclaimed sociologist Katherine Newman explores the trend toward a rising number of “accordion families” composed of adult children who will be living off their parents’ retirement savings with little means of their own when the older generation is gone.
While the trend crosses the developed world, the cultural and political responses to accordion families differ dramatically. In Japan, there is a sense of horror and fear associated with “parasite singles,” whereas in Italy, the “cult of mammismo,” or mamma’s boys, is common and widely accepted, though the government is rallying against it. Meanwhile, in Spain, frustrated parents and millenials angrily blame politicians and big business for the growing number of youth forced to live at home.
Newman’s investigation, conducted in six countries, transports the reader into the homes of accordion families and uncovers fascinating links between globalization and the failure-to-launch trend. Drawing from over three hundred interviews, Newman concludes that nations with weak welfare states have the highest frequency of accordion families while the trend is virtually unknown in the Nordic countries. The United States is caught in between. But globalization is reshaping the landscape of adulthood everywhere, and the consequences are far-reaching in our private lives. In this gripping and urgent book, Newman urges Americans not to simply dismiss the boomerang generation but, rather, to strategize how we can help the younger generation make its own place in the world.
"Newman (The Missing Class) examines the proliferation of 'accordion families,' in which children continue to live with their parents late into their 20s and 30s. It's a phenomenon that spans cultures and continents, and Newman's inquiry takes her around the world to examine how family structures are responding to societal changes. She examines how high unemployment rates, the rise of short-term employment, staggered birth rates, longer life expectancies, and the high cost of living have affected the younger generation's transition to adulthood. While in Spain and Italy the new family dynamics mark a change from the past, they are more easily accepted than they are in Japan, where expectations for maturity and developmental milestones are more socially fixed. Newman's interviews with parents and their cohabitating children reveal how the definition of 'adulthood' is changing, from the possession of external markers (a marriage, a home) to a psychological state, an understanding of one's place in the world and one's responsibilities. While the book fails to provide a prescription to the accordion family, it does provide an alternative when Newman looks north to strong welfare states like Sweden and Denmark, where the government subsidizes housing and provides grants to help young adults transition more easily, a place that the U.S. can look 'to see what can be done, and at what cost, to insure the orderly transition of the generations.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Drawing on interviews with families from six countries around the world, this study on the effects of global economic trends on the economic prospects of young adults examines the living arrangements and financial ties of parents with adult children living at home and explores the long and short term economic, social, and political effects of the "accordion family" phenomenon. The work details the diverse social reactions to the situation and discusses the implications of the trend on the socio-economic prospects of parents and children. Newman is a professor of sociology and James Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Why are adults in their twenties and thirties boomeranging back to or never leaving their parents' homes in the world's wealthiest countries? Acclaimed sociologist Katherine Newman addresses this phenomenon in this timely and original book that uncovers fascinating links between globalization and the failure-to-launch trend. With over 300 interviews conducted in six countries, Newman concludes that nations with weak welfare states have the highest frequency of accordion families. She thoughtfully considers the positive and negative implications of these new relationships and suggests that as globalization reshapes the economic landscape it also continues to redefine our private lives.
About the Author
Katherine S. Newman is the James Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University. The author of ten books on middle-class economic instability, urban poverty, and the sociology of inequality, Newman has taught at the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1) The Slippery State of Adulthood
Chapter 2 Why Are Accordion Families Spreading?
Chapter 3) In-House Adulthood
Chapter 4) I’m OK, You Are Not
Chapter 5) When the Nest Doesn’t Empty
Chapter 6) Trouble in Paradise
Chapter 7) The Birth Dearth and the “Immigrant Menace”
Conclusion: The Messy Politics of the Accordion Family
A Note on Methods and Acknowledgments
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