(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents
(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents
The Decline of the Professional Middle Class
By Nan Mooney
Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807011386, 264pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2008
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 three months' 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, columnist for 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