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Not Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Classby Nan Mooney
Synopses & Reviews
The first book to exclusively target the struggles of the professional middle class--educated individuals who purposely choose humanistic, intellectual, or creative pursuits--Nan Mooney's (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents is a simultaneously sobering and proactive work that captures a diversity of voices.
Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with people all across America, (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents explores how stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership are jeopardizing today's educated middle class. Teachers, counselors, nonprofit employees, environmentalists, journalists, and the author speak candidly about their sense of economic--and hence emotional--security, and their plans and fears about what's to come.
With up-to-date and accessible research, including a short history of the middle class, Mooney explains what it has meant historically to be middle class and how these definitions have changed so dramatically over the decades. She shows that social programs once aided the growth of this class but shifts in policies and labor practices--and increases in fixed costs, such as health care, housing, education, childcare, and household debt--are making it increasingly difficult for families to retain their middle-class status.
Throughout the book, Mooney uses real people's stories and an analysis of the new economic reality to put middle-class struggles in perspective: College tuition has increased 35 percent in the past five years, and while the average college undergraduate's debt is $20,000, earnings for graduates have remained stagnant since 2000. In addition, only 18 percent of middle-class families have threemonths' income saved, and 90 percent of those filing for bankruptcy are middle class. Finally, raising one child through age eighteen costs a middle-income family around $237,000, while the costs of housing, health care, and education are all rising faster than inflation.
Despite this difficult reality, Mooney offers concrete ideas on how individuals and society can arrest this downward spiral. Reigniting a sense of social responsibility is crucial--this ranges from improving government-backed education, health care, and childcare programs to drawing on successful models from individual states and other countries. Intimate personal accounts combined with Mooney's incisive analysis will make (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents resonate deeply for America's professional middle class.
What happens when the center cannot hold? With great empathy and infectious alarm, Nan Mooney charts the travails of America's middle class in this important book.
--Anya Kamenetz, author of Generation Debt
If you're wondering why, in our age of plenty, the financial treadmill keeps moving faster and faster for America's increasingly educated--and increasingly insecure--middle class, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It's all here: the big trends, the compelling portraits, the ideas for personal and political change, and the call to arms we so desperately need.
--Jacob S. Hacker, author of The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back
A book for the distressed and confused because their life plan has gone to pieces. Mooney illuminates what has happened to them--and why.
--Nicholas Von Hoffman, columnistfor NY Observer and regular contributor to The Nation
This is the kind of book that you wish was fiction. But, as Nan Mooney's incisive new book shows, the fact is that this generation has inherited an economy with too many low-paying, no benefit jobs and an eroding middle class. Millions of young families wonder where they went wrong when, in fact, their economic problems are largely the result of policies that generated higher incomes for a select few and rising economic insecurity for the rest of us. In this timely book, Ms. Mooney pushes us to demand an economy that works for all of us, not just the very wealthy.
--Heather Boushey, senior economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research
We hear a lot about the runaway wealth of American professionals. In this important book, Nan Mooney reminds us that most have no such luck. Working in jobs they love provides a sense of moral worth, but doesn't cover the bills for teachers, legal aid lawyers, practicing artists, and others. Something has gone wrong in America, and this book gives us a grip on the crisis.
--Katherine Newman, coauthor of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America and the Forbes Class of 1941 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton
Facts from Not Keeping Up with Our Parents
- Ninety percent of those filing for bankruptcy today are middle class.
- Average college loan debt is nearly $20,000; average graduate school loan debt is $46,000.
- Credit card debt has risen 31 percent in the past five years; already indebted, middle- and low-income households owe an average of $8,650; a third owe over $10,000.
- Health care premiums have increased at five timesthe rate of inflation since 2000.
- The median wealth of white households is $86,100, as opposed to $19,010 for black households and $11,450 for Latino households.
- Between 1979 and 2003, income for the middle fifth of the population grew just 9 percent, while the income for the top 1 percent jumped by 111 percent.
- Twenty-three percent of public college graduates and 38 percent of private college graduates would have an unmanageable level of debt if they were to live on a teacher's starting salary.
Drawing on more than 100 interviews with diverse families across America, Mooney explores the financial struggles of today's professional middle class, delving into their sense of economic security and their plans for and fears about the future.
Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with people all across America, (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents explores how stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership are jeopardizing the finances and futures of today's educated middle class. Despite this sobering reality, Nan Mooney offers concrete ideas on how we can arrest this downward spiral.
Already garnering coverage in U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon, and Utne Reader, and heard on NPR and PBS, Nan Mooney draws on more than a hundred interviews with diverse families across America and shows how profoundly middle class realities have shifted. Consider, for example, why 90 percent of those filing for bankruptcy are middle class: The share of family income devoted to fixed costs”—housing, child care, health insurance, and taxes—has climbed from 53 percent to 75 percent in the past two decades. College tuition has increased 35 percent in the past five years while credit card debt has risen 31 percent. Despite this sobering reality, Mooney offers concrete ideas on how we can stop this downward spiral.
About the Author
Nan Mooney is the author of I Can't Believe She Did That: Why Women Betray Other Women at Work and My Racing Heart: The Passionate World of Thoroughbreds and the Track. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Slate, The Daily News, The Daily Telegraph (UK), The Seattle Weekly, Women's eNews, and various other publications.
Her books have been featured in Elle, O, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Daily News, Salon and USA Today, among others, She has also appeared on NPR (Marketplace, Morning Edition, Only a Game), The Joan Hamburg Show, Voice of America and numerous local radio and TV shows. Having worked in the film and publishing industries, she is currently a free lance writer and can be reached through her website, www.nanmooney.com. She lives in Seattle.
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