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Families today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible. Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of Families today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible. Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects—from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses—have been wrung out by a system that doesn’t support them, and enriches only a tiny elite. Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving. Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors.


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Families today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible. Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of Families today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible. Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects—from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses—have been wrung out by a system that doesn’t support them, and enriches only a tiny elite. Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving. Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors.

30 review for Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    I looked forward to reading this book, because income inequality has become an important topic in America. I see firsthand the deterioration of the middle class, with professionals often working second jobs in the evening; families with two working parents struggling to pay for day care or patch together a network of relatives and friends to provide it because they can’t afford it at all; and people in their 20s and 30s held hostage to student debt or living with parents or roommates due to hous I looked forward to reading this book, because income inequality has become an important topic in America. I see firsthand the deterioration of the middle class, with professionals often working second jobs in the evening; families with two working parents struggling to pay for day care or patch together a network of relatives and friends to provide it because they can’t afford it at all; and people in their 20s and 30s held hostage to student debt or living with parents or roommates due to housing prices. Wages haven’t kept up with inflation, while the price of education and medical care is skyrocketing and the price of housing is climbing steeply as well. The current generation of young people is expected, overall, to earn less than their parents, and people with respectable jobs will tell you they can’t afford to have kids. This is a mess that certainly deserves a book. Sadly, this is not a good book. It’s overly focused on the very expensive New York City and San Francisco, which the author discusses as if they were representative of the rest of the country. The human-interest segments are lacking, spending too little time with any individual to tell their story or get readers invested; instead the author summarizes their financial situation and feelings about it and then moves on, generally never to revisit the same person again. It’s poorly organized and feels rushed to press, with egregious copyediting errors like random words stranded between sentences, repetitive figurative language (she describes parents and day-care providers as “like nesting dolls” twice in two pages, and then again at the end), and poor word choice (stating, for instance, that a law “argues” something – a statute mandates, prohibits or permits something, it doesn’t argue). Meanwhile the factual portions are marked by generalizations, odd tangents, questionable leaps of logic, and conclusions with no factual basis provided. She’ll call something a “racket” or a “myth” when first introducing a situation, rather than leading readers to draw conclusions ourselves. And it’s hard to take her word for it when she uses overheated language: “As of 2004, nearly 40 percent of Americans had experienced nonstandard work lives, if by ‘standard’ is meant the (now semi-mythical) eight-hour daily shift of the past.” What’s “semi-mythical” about a schedule that’s all that 60% of Americans have ever known? She also does a poor job of bringing her own emotions home to the reader; for instance, she meets an overnight day care child “two years older than my daughter” who feels she can’t rely on parents. Okay, so how old is Quart’s daughter? And she feels like she needs to pay rent to go for a walk – wait, what? Why? But let me summarize the book for you; I read it so you don’t have to! Chapter 1: “Inconceivable: Pregnant and Squeezed” Employment discrimination against pregnant women is on the rise; some pregnant employees are fired, while those looking for a job hide their pregnancies in interviews. The author believes this is because employers want to deny human biology. Chapter 2: “Hyper-Educated and Poor” Adjunct professors are only paid about as much as grade-school teachers, and may have to patch together classes at several different colleges to make ends meet. This chapter focuses almost exclusively on adjunct professors, even discussing a charity set up to help them with bills. Chapter 3: “Extreme Day Care: The Deep Cost of American Work” Employers increasingly expect employees to work unusual hours, so some day cares are now open round-the-clock. Day care is incredibly expensive while at the same time day care workers are poorly-paid; I wish she had delved into this apparent contradiction. Chapter 4: “Outclassed: Life at the Bottom of the Top” This chapter makes reference to “keeping up with the Joneses” but then, perhaps realizing that’s a common and not terribly sympathetic phenomenon, shifts gears to talk about how many more lawyers there are these days than actual legal jobs, due to the proliferation of law schools and the assumption that a law degree equals financial security. Seems like this belongs in Chapter 2, since underemployed lawyers aren’t exactly almost-rich. It’s hard to tell from the book how many people are actually affected though, because she gives random statistics like “56% of lawyers in Alaska don’t work in law!” Okay, so why are you talking about Alaska rather than giving nationwide statistics? And this is meaningless anyway without stats on how many lawyers worked in other fields pre-recession; law has always been a gateway to other fields, whether in business, politics, government administration, nonprofit management, or more unusual choices from police chief to novelist. Chapter 5: “The Nanny’s Struggle” There’s a decent story in here about a Paraguayan immigrant working as a nanny/cleaner and trying to raise her son, though I’m not sure why it’s here as she’s working poor, not middle class. This chapter segues into discussing the complexity of the educational system in New York, spending a full 12 pages on the difficulty of figuring out which New York public school to request, and the fact that middle- and upper-class folk pay educational consultants for this. As a solution, the author suggests providing free educational consultants to all parents. This seems minimally helpful as presumably there are schools virtually all parents would prefer to avoid, and anyway, I doubt it’s that difficult to choose a high school in most of the country, if you have any choice at all. Chapter 6: “Uber Dads: Moonlighting in the Gig Economy” This chapter is focused on Uber, and in particular Uber’s pitch to teachers, and the fact that teachers feel they need to moonlight at a second job at all. This is a real problem, but there’s a lot more to the gig economy than ridesharing, though you don’t see that here. Quart even theorizes that men are more likely to drive for Uber because they constantly have to prove their masculinity, so feel more threatened by loss of class status. No doubt this is a factor in some men’s decision to moonlight, and it seems appropriate to say something about issues affecting men in a book that’s generally much more focused on women’s issues, but Quart overlooks the fact that women typically don’t work as taxi or rideshare drivers due to fear of sexual assault or robbery, and that the demographics of Uber drivers aren’t representative of the gig economy overall. Look at second jobs in retail, hospitality, child care, or pet care, for instance, and you’ll see different demographics. Chapter 7: “The Second Act Industry: Or the Midlife Do-Over Myth” A lot of for-profit colleges are scams, making money on students’ federal loans, but not providing good education and landing their students with debt. The author doesn’t really support her assertion that a mid-life career change is a “myth,” though she writes about a lot of people making money off of others’ desire to start over. Chapter 8: “Squeezed Houses” This is where I thought we’d get more on housing prices, but this chapter mostly talks about the fact that some parents have decided to move in with other parents and “coparent” their kids together although they’re not related or romantically involved. Chapter 9: “The Rise of 1 Percent Television” Quart wants to tie people’s love of watching TV featuring the rich into her narrative somehow. She doesn’t really make the case that this is a new phenomenon, though, and her analysis of the shows in question is doubtful. (She points out that in Downton Abbey the rich Crawleys are mostly good while a couple of servants are the villains, neglecting to mention that the servants Anna and Bates are portrayed as practically angels in comparison to everybody else.) She also claims that people posting pictures of “adventurous vacations” and even attractive spouses on social media are doing so to advertise their class status. Chapter 10: “Squeezed by the Robots” The final chapter has some legitimate points about jobs being lost to automation, but Quart takes it to an extreme and spends most of the chapter creating a false dichotomy where robots shuttling linens about the hospital means that future patients’ post-op care will somehow be done entirely by machines, with no “human touch.” She romanticizes care work here – I’ll bet a lot of patients would find more dignity in being lifted by a machine they can control than by a busy, tired low-wage worker – while championing what she admits is an apocalyptic view of robots. Then she advocates for a universal basic income, which she doesn’t really seem to have thought through because, first, why pay people not to work when there’s all-important care work to be done, and second, she suggests both that it would probably be set at the poverty level and that it could replace programs like Medicare. As if any elderly person at the poverty level could afford health care out-of-pocket. There – now you’ve as good as read the book. I went in expecting to agree with the author, and still thought it was bad; hopefully someone else will tackle this topic with more intellectual rigor and emotional depth, and with a better editor and copyeditor.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    "The United States is the richest and also the most unequal country in the world." ~Alissa Quart, "Squeezed" If you live in the U.S., you surely know that many families barely get by, can barely pay the rent and put food on their tables. In Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about the struggles of low-wage Americans. In Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America, Alissa Quart brings to light the issues middle-class Americans face, which aren't alwa "The United States is the richest and also the most unequal country in the world." ~Alissa Quart, "Squeezed" If you live in the U.S., you surely know that many families barely get by, can barely pay the rent and put food on their tables. In Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about the struggles of low-wage Americans. In Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America, Alissa Quart brings to light the issues middle-class Americans face, which aren't always as obvious. Ms. Quart discusses issues such as: • The high cost of day care, which for an infant often is more than the cost of a public college. • The high cost of education and the overwhelming debt people incur whilst getting one. Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Prices have risen more than 1,000% since 1978, and they continue to skyrocket. • The high cost of housing. Rent is on the rise, especially in large cities. Median rent in San Francisco, for instance. is $4,430 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and purchasing a house is often far too expensive to even take out an affordable loan on. As prices for everything from day care to food to education to housing -- and everything in between -- continue to rise, wages stagnate. Families find that a good education now no longer ensures a good life. Going to college often leaves one with crippling debt, and with the cost of everything else, they simply incur more and more debt as time goes by, especially if one decides to have children. There is no mandatory paid maternity leave in this country and so mothers are forced to either take an unpaid leave of absence or work up to the time of giving birth and return to work shortly thereafter. The high costs of child care mentioned above further depletes families' money, not to mention all the other expenses of having a child. It begins at the hospital: the average woman with medical insurance still owes an average of $2,000 for having a baby. The price is much higher for the uninsured and under-insured. I personally don't understand why anyone would want to have a child or children in today's economy, or how anyone affords them at all. Probably because she is a mother, Ms. Quart spends the main part of the book talking about the particular struggles of parents. It felt redundant at times, as she rehashed what she'd written in previous chapters. I would have preferred a little less about parenting costs but that's because I don't have children. People with children are likely to appreciate the time she spends on their particular issues. It's not just the cost of everything that stresses people either: It's the fact that more and more people are being made redundant in the workplace, their jobs going to robots and other forms of AI. This leads to people in middle age suddenly needing to reinvent themselves, get another education, find a new career. Even if they are able to afford college and are able to get another degree, they find discrimination in the work place. Ageism might be illegal, but companies still discriminate on the basis of age. Of course, African Americans and other minorities find it even more difficult than their white peers, as they also are often faced with race discrimination. People in the middle class live in fear of slipping into the lower class. As Ms. Quart says, "...once you have achieved any economic stability in this country, you live forever with a fear of falling out of it." Whilst the middle-class struggles might not be so apparent to those in the lower classes, they do indeed have struggles of their own. I have not always been sympathetic to those in the middle class and did not appreciate that they too have very real fears of falling into the cracks. I am very frugal, both by nature and by necessity, and it is easy for me to say things like, "Well, just don't buy that, or buy something cheaper." "Stop going out to eat; it's no big deal and healthier to eat at home." In fact, for those who have always had, it is much more difficult to do without. Also, those in the middle class feel incredible guilt and shame when they think they are struggling more than their peers. Class, whilst not something I've ever cared about, is very important to those in the middle and upper classes. People are often unable to see that it is the system that is stacked against them; it's not their fault they are slipping through the cracks and not as financially secure as their parents were. Instead of placing the blame where it belongs, on the greedy top 1%, they blame themselves. They try to keep up appearances, buying things they can't really afford or sending their children to schools they equally can't afford, because they don't want anyone to know they are struggling. Many people take second jobs, just trying to make ends meet, to stay in their neighbourhoods, to not let others know they can no longer keep up. No longer is a middle-class income enough to cover childcare, education, a home in a nice neighbourhood, annual vacations. Of course, those in the lower classes struggle more and get by with far less, but to those who've always been in the middle class, they compare themselves with their neighbours who they think are more affluent even though they too might be barely getting by. I would have liked the book more if Alissa had talked more about the country as a whole, rather than focusing most of her attention on New York City and San Francisco. Even if she has not lived in other places, she is a journalist and could have spoken with a broader expanse of people. Also, she doesn't say a whole lot about the people whom she does talk to. We learn their current career and financial situation, and read a little of their feelings about it. One doesn't get to know any of the people interviewed for the book, and as such they seem to just be mentioned only to highlight a specific point. Unfortunately, Ms, Quart does not offer many solutions, just vaguely mentions things like countries providing public daycare, mandatory paid maternity leave, a universal basic income. Other than voting for progressives and trying to trade and barter with those around us, she offers little in the way of what one can do to try to improve their situation. This is not her fault as there are no easy answers and it's often out of the hands of the individual anyway. This book is more to inform than to offer any solutions. It would be nice if there was a simple solution, but there is not. The thing we need to start with -- making the top 1% pay their fair share in taxes and stop letting them make billions whilst paying their employees a pittance -- is unlikely to happen anytime soon. There's too much money in politics, and there aren't enough politicians willing to fight for the average American. Instead, they work for those who will line their own pockets. How do we correct this? I have no frickin' idea but I sure hope their is a way to fix America, and make it affordable for all. And I hope that happens soon. Likewise in the rest of the world. 3.5 stars rounded up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Rating: 3.5 stars I’ve read several books that focus on the struggles faced by people living in poverty (such as Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City). I had not, however, read anything focused on the struggles of those in the middle class, so when I saw this book, I was eager to read it. In Squeezed, Quart shares the difficulties faced by families, from the lower middle-class all the way up to the upper middle-class. Whether they are highly educated or not, each of t Rating: 3.5 stars I’ve read several books that focus on the struggles faced by people living in poverty (such as Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City). I had not, however, read anything focused on the struggles of those in the middle class, so when I saw this book, I was eager to read it. In Squeezed, Quart shares the difficulties faced by families, from the lower middle-class all the way up to the upper middle-class. Whether they are highly educated or not, each of them are drowning in debt, in part because of stagnate wages and the ever-increasing cost of living. In addition to the personal stories of struggle, Quart examines the factors that contribute to economic hardship. Some parts of the book are quite cerebral. Although I hate to admit it, I was often bored out of my mind as I trudged through these portions. I was far more interested in the personal stories. I appreciated the value of the other information, even though I found it a bit dull. Despite slightly mixed feelings, I’m glad I read this book. I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Ecco via Edelweiss.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Canfield

    3 stars for the educational value, 2 for the conclusions. The author is a journalist and knows how to tell a story. All of the real life people she interviews demonstrate clearly the challenge of living in our current economy where housing and rent/mortgages have been rising while wages have stagnated. She shows how this impacts people across the economic spectrum from those with low income to those with upper middle class income. I came away understanding why people feel squeezed. The challenge 3 stars for the educational value, 2 for the conclusions. The author is a journalist and knows how to tell a story. All of the real life people she interviews demonstrate clearly the challenge of living in our current economy where housing and rent/mortgages have been rising while wages have stagnated. She shows how this impacts people across the economic spectrum from those with low income to those with upper middle class income. I came away understanding why people feel squeezed. The challenge for me came in the conclusions which were not thorough and didn't leave me with an idea of what concrete steps we could make to ease these pressures on people. Read it if you are wondering why everyone is so stressed about money, but not if you are looking for ideas on how to solve that problem.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christine Cunliffe

    I had high hopes for this book having good content but instead it turned out to be more whining than I had hoped. I completely disagree with everytime the author mentioned that people shouldn't blame themselves for where they ended up. The fact that there is zero accountability assigned to the stories that are mentioned really downgraded the quality of this book. Save your money and check it out from your library.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    A primary focus of this book seemed to me to be how very difficult and expensive it has become to have and raise kids in the USA today. She did talk about people who have lost jobs in midlife and their struggles to find another job; about the gig economy; about the rising cost of housing and education; and about automation. But she always circled back to the costs associated with having children and her own induction into the ranks of squeezed parents. She notes that care work is routinely deval A primary focus of this book seemed to me to be how very difficult and expensive it has become to have and raise kids in the USA today. She did talk about people who have lost jobs in midlife and their struggles to find another job; about the gig economy; about the rising cost of housing and education; and about automation. But she always circled back to the costs associated with having children and her own induction into the ranks of squeezed parents. She notes that care work is routinely devalued (and care work is very often done by women). She also says that human biology is denied in corporate America when pregnancy and aging are seen only as deterrents to being the perfect employee. Her main admonishment to the reader is not to lay blame, reminding that often problems are caused by the system, not any personal lack. **I just came across this news story which dovetails with this author's findings... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/up...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A really thoughtful look at why it is the middle class is so frequently squeezed -- why we can't afford houses or luxuries that were once available to our parents and why it is we'll never be as well off as our parents were. It's about the value of many industries and how the value has declined; specifically, this book looks at things like child care work, teaching, and even law, and how those jobs which were once seen as important are now among the quickest disappearing, least paid, and most ne A really thoughtful look at why it is the middle class is so frequently squeezed -- why we can't afford houses or luxuries that were once available to our parents and why it is we'll never be as well off as our parents were. It's about the value of many industries and how the value has declined; specifically, this book looks at things like child care work, teaching, and even law, and how those jobs which were once seen as important are now among the quickest disappearing, least paid, and most needed. What I took away most from this book, though, was something I never spent a lot of time thinking about: the power of a universal basic income. Quart does a great job of explaining how something like that could really empower people who are in the position of choosing between working and, well, having children or taking care of a sick family member, which are both unpaid and underappreciated aspects of life in American culture. Having always lived here, I forget that the choice between having a child and having a career isn't the norm in other places; some countries even ENCOURAGE things like, oh, being human and creating other humans and taking care of other humans. Intellectually, it's a thing you know, but until you start thinking more deeply about it, you don't necessarily understand how disturbing it is that we simply choose not to and that instead, we punish people for being, well, people. This does get a bit repetitive at times, and there are certainly aspects of the book which were a little underdeveloped -- there is discussion of race within the middle class, but the bulk of those who are discussed are white, straight, and living in urban areas -- but it was also interesting to see a better breakdown of those articles about people making 6-figures and being broke as a joke and why those are actually important things to think about (i.e., it's a real struggle in places like the Bay area, where even moving as far away from your work place means added costs in pricey, hard-to-find childcare, gas, and so forth). Pair this one with The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior. I will say it made me really appreciate my college education experience and how nearly all of the professors were able to have lives outside of work because they were nearly all full professors, with full course loads, health insurance, and an actual salary, rather than living the cobbled together, unstable adjunct life. (But then again: I only wish we could have seen more about the middle class in rural America...which is also where I went to college).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book. Oh boy. I don't even know where to start. Maybe I should start with the good stuff? For all of its issues, Squeezed is so dang *readable*. Quart's background in long-form journalism really shines in each chapter, and she does a good job moving between fact and anecdote to keep the material interesting. While you'll find a big list of citations at the end of the book, you don't have to worry about this being an academic text. And maybe that's ultimately the problem. Quart's thesis is o This book. Oh boy. I don't even know where to start. Maybe I should start with the good stuff? For all of its issues, Squeezed is so dang *readable*. Quart's background in long-form journalism really shines in each chapter, and she does a good job moving between fact and anecdote to keep the material interesting. While you'll find a big list of citations at the end of the book, you don't have to worry about this being an academic text. And maybe that's ultimately the problem. Quart's thesis is ostensibly to investigate why middle class Americans are being squeezed to death in the current economy, but her overview is scattershot at best. But the real problem comes in two places: her chosen population cross-sections and her analysis. In terms of *who* she looks at, Quart spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on people with young kids. And of course, that's important! But those aren't the only people in the middle class. She offers only passing mentions of young single people, and with the exception of one chapter that focuses on middle-age "second act"ers, that's basically it. I suppose that's because Quart is a middle-class white mother herself, but it makes her argument seem more cherry-picked than it is. And unfortunately, her arguments aren't a lot better. Suffice it to say that structurally, her chapters read like freshman comp essays. You can easily divide them into 80% positioning the problem, 15% surveying potential solutions, and 5% proving her thesis. It's just...it's not good, guys. I also found her tone really hard to track. She's writing this book and works for a non-profit oriented toward helping struggling journalists, so I'm sure she has lots of compassion for the "squeezed" middle class. But so much of this book reads like her trying to prove to us that she's middle class herself that I couldn't help but roll my eyes. And then there are certain parts of the book that are just really strange. In the chapter about overnight daycare, she mentions that she's afraid the care workers might ask her to help put the children to bed (like she isn't the mother of two young girls herself). Later, she mentions that all the mommies in her New York playgroup couldn't *believe* that overnight daycare facilities even existed, like Quart is some class-traversing explorer back with unbelievable tales of poverty and doom! And that's just one example: over and over again, Quart's own commentary comes across as tone deaf in a way that set my teeth on edge. Which makes me wonder: what's the deal with that? How is there such a tonal difference between her data reporting and her argumentation? It's just weird, you guys. Part of me feels like I'm being harder on this book than it deserves. There were moments where I was shocked by the data she provides even though her interpretations of said data get a little fuzzy around the edges more often than I'd like. But by the time I finished Squeezed, I had the very same reaction to this one as I did to Sandberg's Lean In. While Squeezed isn't overwhelmingly offensive, there's enough off about it to make me really not like it. If you're hellbent on giving this book a try, I'd suggest reading the first three chapters, which are the best. (The chapter on adjunct labor in higher education is particularly good.) If you're still in it to win it, maybe flip over to the bit on the "second act" of middle aged Americans, which at least gives you a glimpse into another cross-section of the population. But otherwise, I'd pass on this one and pick up Evicted by Matthew Desmond instead.

  9. 4 out of 5

    BDT

    The difficulty in assessing this subject material is that it is clearly a pressing and urgent issue in today's society and family economics. I've asked the question hundreds of times, "how can the average family afford rent/mortgage, child care, and other essentials in today's America?" The answer: not easily, and not really. Squeezed arrives at that conclusion quickly, and returns to it frequently. The differing motifs are a nice touch, but it was really difficult to get an idea of how the diffe The difficulty in assessing this subject material is that it is clearly a pressing and urgent issue in today's society and family economics. I've asked the question hundreds of times, "how can the average family afford rent/mortgage, child care, and other essentials in today's America?" The answer: not easily, and not really. Squeezed arrives at that conclusion quickly, and returns to it frequently. The differing motifs are a nice touch, but it was really difficult to get an idea of how the different individuals stack up against others. Is their example and story generalizeable? Some are more detailed than others, but it is difficult for me to comparatively assess how the stories of several unfortunates discussed herein relate to other segments of soceity, or even against myself. This was a smaller issue; I have several other points of distraction or dislike that I'll discuss below. The frequent asides to the President are distracting and do not achieve much. For a serious text on such an important issue facing modern America, there's no need to fight additional political battles regardless of how strongly you feel about them. Rule #1 of economic/social/political non-fiction: stick with your bottom-line. You have a real and rare opportunity to convert people to your way of thinking that otherwise would not give you the light of day, because they are being squeezed out of the American dream the same as most folks. By referencing the 2016 election and the President frequently, and with thinly veiled sarcasm and dislike, you are taking away any chance that an interested yet traditionally opposing political reader would learn important lessons that this book contains. A further issue that I have is the extreme diversity of causes by which American families are 'squeezed' - many of which are driven by personal choice. This is not to say that such people are unworthy of help (on the contrary, these are the individuals most in need of it!), but many cases of considerable student debt, expensive lifestyles, and conflicts of choice are less compelling than other stories of medical emergencies/chronic care, mothers forced out of the job market for a decade or longer despite being well-educated, or the consequences of automation and obsolescence. Income inequality and insecurity is definitely a multi-factorial problem, yet it was unclear based upon reading this book which culprits might be responsible for larger pluralities of the issue at hand, and the personal choices of many anecdotes discussed herein are often glossed over as an insignificant detail. Additionally, the solutions are unrealistic and concerning. Neo-Luddism is entirely unrealistic - one way or another, countries will continue to pursue robotics and automation for no other reason than to out-compete one another. Universal Basic Income continues to have issues in Finland and other trial areas, and while the topic is fascinating I did not learn anything new about that here. The book's strengths are its coverage of the education crisis, where student loan debt is growing at an insane rate with little to show for it. I wish additional attention as the same level of detail were given to commodities and many housing markets (these issues were touched upon, but only in a cursory or non-systematic way). 2 Stars for tackling an impossible problem with gusto and spirit, yet retaining some issues of presentation and style based upon my personal preferences.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Well that was depressing. It's a really important topic, but the organization and examples were unfocused. It also suffered from a very New York/West Coast myopia that made me want to scream! There's a whole chapter about the New York City school lottery which is an important topic to people living there, but completely irrelevant to most of the country. It was also an extremely pessimistic book short on solutions. Blegh.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Very well researched book on why the average American can't get ahead and guess what? It has little to do with personal failings and everything to do with a system that is rigged against us. Quart points out that what causes poverty is A) lack of affordable healthcare, B) lack of quality and affordable childcare, C) lack of affordable housing, D) expensive post graduate education and E) low wages. Dare to complain you're having problems making ends meet and society informs you that 'you just aren Very well researched book on why the average American can't get ahead and guess what? It has little to do with personal failings and everything to do with a system that is rigged against us. Quart points out that what causes poverty is A) lack of affordable healthcare, B) lack of quality and affordable childcare, C) lack of affordable housing, D) expensive post graduate education and E) low wages. Dare to complain you're having problems making ends meet and society informs you that 'you just aren't trying hard enough' or 'you haven't gotten enough education.' This is the advice given to people working two jobs who possess advanced graduate degrees and are living in their mom's basement. Quart examines the academic research and the lives of real people to get to the truth, focusing on teachers, social workers and people who made the incredibly bad decision to get a law degree. These people are educated, dedicated to their field and hardworking but it doesn't matter. Pregnancy is not a condition tolerated by many industries, especially law offices. If housing costs spiral out of control you could be driven to live an hour away from your job, severely impacting your family life, and God forbid you get sick. Even if you have insurance, you can be bankrupted. My first job out of college was at an Ivy League Institution. Foolishly, I took the position thinking they were offering a fair wage. I soon discovered that my advanced degree meant nothing to people who marketed education as a way to become successful. Housing costs in the area were high, but the administration kept the wages low--an administration of white privileged millionaires. For a long time, I blamed myself for being stupid enough to buy into the fantasy of an advanced degree leading to a better life. Things eventually improved but I've never stopped resenting the University that educated me or the Ivy covered institution that exploited me and people like me. We have an entire class of people in this country who feel they are entitled to cheap labor and they feel no responsibility to their community. They don't care that parents are exhausted and broke from trying to pay for day care, they don't care that they're employees are stressed from long commutes, few housing choices and student loans. They want an educated workforce, but they don't want to pay for that education. Quart points out that Americans need to stop blaming themselves and start blaming the system that exploits them. Her book should be required reading for every voter.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Underwood

    Propaganda This book sums up what's wrong in America. People with non-marketable degrees, people who refuse to leave areas with high cost of living etc , yet chapter one already finds a way to blame those bad, bad republicans. Yeah all set here. I wanted an unbiased view but apparently that was too much to ask. Glad I didn't spend a dime of my hard earned money on this rag.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marya

    Only a few chapters in, it was explained to me that these individuals deserve my sympathy not because they are on food stamps, nor because they are highly educated. They deserve my sympathy because they are on food stamps *despite* being highly educated. Ms. Quart lays out the theory that the pricey college and graduate degrees her subjects earned gave them more than a ton of debt; it gave them dreams, aspirations, and tastes. It gave them expectations of a good, middle class life, defined by mu Only a few chapters in, it was explained to me that these individuals deserve my sympathy not because they are on food stamps, nor because they are highly educated. They deserve my sympathy because they are on food stamps *despite* being highly educated. Ms. Quart lays out the theory that the pricey college and graduate degrees her subjects earned gave them more than a ton of debt; it gave them dreams, aspirations, and tastes. It gave them expectations of a good, middle class life, defined by music lessons for their children and a job rich in creative expression. It lead them to think they would live better than their middle class parents who lacked this education and freedom in the workforce, yet were still able to provide those music lessons. In short, they were raised too well to work in a flower shop. That's when I put the book down. I don't mind the occasional Edwardian class drama. Pathos is pathos. But what bugs me here, as it did in Pygmalion, is what is left unsaid. Only those with dreams, those raised with higher expectations get to be exalted as tragic figures. For the poor, who have only known poverty, there is no sympathy, nor even recognition. The underlying assumption is that the poor have no dreams, no aspirations, and if you follow this thread of thought, no underlying humanity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel León

    There have been a few books out (Evicted, Nickel and Dimed, etc.) that look at poverty, but this book looks at the financial issues of the middle class. Quart examines problems of educated people who can't get a job--professors, teachers, lawyers, nurses--or who simply aren't making enough money, as well as the devaluation of care workers and families. At times the book doesn't quite delve into topics as deeply as I'd like, but overall it's a great comprehensive look at why so many Americans are There have been a few books out (Evicted, Nickel and Dimed, etc.) that look at poverty, but this book looks at the financial issues of the middle class. Quart examines problems of educated people who can't get a job--professors, teachers, lawyers, nurses--or who simply aren't making enough money, as well as the devaluation of care workers and families. At times the book doesn't quite delve into topics as deeply as I'd like, but overall it's a great comprehensive look at why so many Americans are struggling financially.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Disappointingly at once repetitive and scattered. I think this would have functioned better as long form journalism, or an extended book, but the length was too short to be in-depth, and author came off repetitive at times. The chapter on TV shows was a strange inclusion in that it didn’t relate to the book at all, and I wasn’t familiar with most of the shows mentioned so it was further unengaging. I’ve read other books on similar topics that were much more effective (eg Evicted and The Unbankin Disappointingly at once repetitive and scattered. I think this would have functioned better as long form journalism, or an extended book, but the length was too short to be in-depth, and author came off repetitive at times. The chapter on TV shows was a strange inclusion in that it didn’t relate to the book at all, and I wasn’t familiar with most of the shows mentioned so it was further unengaging. I’ve read other books on similar topics that were much more effective (eg Evicted and The Unbanking of America).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan Lee

    Some really fascinating statistics and information. Terribly, terribly written. My love of all things sociology is the only reason I could finish this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    Not quite sure how I feel about this one. There were parts I found insightful, but also parts that make me wonder how the author didn’t trip over her own bias on the way to publication. Despite quotes like this, “She was not a self indulgent hipster mom with a breast-feeding-till-the-kid-is-three fetish,” meant to justify why being accommodated for breast-feeding/pumping as an airline pilot was not outrageous (like it should matter if she was), I finished reading the book. I’m quite surprised th Not quite sure how I feel about this one. There were parts I found insightful, but also parts that make me wonder how the author didn’t trip over her own bias on the way to publication. Despite quotes like this, “She was not a self indulgent hipster mom with a breast-feeding-till-the-kid-is-three fetish,” meant to justify why being accommodated for breast-feeding/pumping as an airline pilot was not outrageous (like it should matter if she was), I finished reading the book. I’m quite surprised this book was being lauded on NPR, to be honest. I did find the anecdotes interesting, however, and the premise is not wrong, so it wasn't a total waste of time and I am ultimately glad I read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    Over educated and underpaid while being devalued without job security is at the nations core of the middle class. Many of us are a step away from poverty if not already there and are struggling to survive while the motto goes around for the top 1% claiming to Make America Great Again but for who? This book challenges the notion that America is not great with taxation being the main problem along with high childcare, no paid maternity/family leave, unattainable higher education programs/colleges do Over educated and underpaid while being devalued without job security is at the nations core of the middle class. Many of us are a step away from poverty if not already there and are struggling to survive while the motto goes around for the top 1% claiming to Make America Great Again but for who? This book challenges the notion that America is not great with taxation being the main problem along with high childcare, no paid maternity/family leave, unattainable higher education programs/colleges do to costs, housing market has blown up (location/location/location) and so much more. The problem is we need living wages not peanuts. We need job security not bouncing from one to another job. We need affordable health care. All this and more is addressed with real life situations and problems being tackled. Loved it all as I myself live below poverty with my 3 kids with a dual masters and then some including a Points of Light Volunteer courtesy of President George H.W. Bush. Yet, here I am a 45yo mother of 3 teens (oldest med disabled since birth for rest of life) unable to get employment as long term unemployed. After leaving abusive 11 yr marriage with 13 yrs together we were left homeless w/o income awaiting 15k arrearages in child support which never came. I was then bankrupt from living on credit coupled with 100k marital debt on my shoulders as my spouse hired top lawyer that I can't afford and was told I'm now overqualified w/o prior work experience. I'm an all star on LinkedIn , I was previously most viewed profile when LinkedIn provided such results, I'm a 20 yr volunteer with numerous awards for service, yet nobody will hire after 18 yrs out of the workforce. So yes, I can relate to the struggles and this books is a valuable tool for those of us locked into poverty.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    This was kind of a scary and sad read. Scary because it’s horrible that so many people are unemployed/underemployed at a time in life when they should be closer to retirement age. Sad because, according to this book, a lot of the same people are going back to school and going further into debt, and the result doesn’t always mean ending up with a well-paying job. A lot of this book was focused on the struggles of parents, especially working women. As someone who is childfree I’m thankful about not This was kind of a scary and sad read. Scary because it’s horrible that so many people are unemployed/underemployed at a time in life when they should be closer to retirement age. Sad because, according to this book, a lot of the same people are going back to school and going further into debt, and the result doesn’t always mean ending up with a well-paying job. A lot of this book was focused on the struggles of parents, especially working women. As someone who is childfree I’m thankful about not being in a similar position described by the parents. It seems incredibly tough. That said, at what point does someone look around say “Hey, maybe having a child in my current situation isn’t the best idea right now?” I understand circumstances can’t be helped sometimes, be it job loss or a change in the family unit, but towards the end the author included this: -One fix would be a universal child allowance scheme in which Americans would receive additional money simply for having children.- Eh? No. There would have to be some strict rules for that, I feel. What’s to stop someone having a child as a way to get some quick money if they’re in a bad situation and need some temporary relief? What happens as that child grows up and needs care, which the parents may of may not be able to afford? I feel for people, I really do, and it’s sad that so many families are in a situation where they have to work long hours just to be able to afford care for their children. I sincerely hope something changes to alleviate their struggles.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maggie (babewithabookandabeer)

    incredibly good.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    This book gives a grim accounting of life in America today and income inequality. The author describes how the middle class is struggling to maintain their position in the economy. Many are working two jobs and many have advanced degrees and can’t get jobs. Some of them have advanced degrees in the humanities like English and can’t make enough teaching and some get law degrees that are expensive but worthless from for profit Universities which are a sham. Most of the jobs needed today though are This book gives a grim accounting of life in America today and income inequality. The author describes how the middle class is struggling to maintain their position in the economy. Many are working two jobs and many have advanced degrees and can’t get jobs. Some of them have advanced degrees in the humanities like English and can’t make enough teaching and some get law degrees that are expensive but worthless from for profit Universities which are a sham. Most of the jobs needed today though are not more lawyers from second rate schools but blue collar jobs like in automotive repair, plumbing, construction, welding, etc. but robots will do much of the work in the future. The author also discussed how expensive child care is today. This is certainly not new. It was expensive years ago and we had to find ways to work and find child care options. Many people should wait and save up or learn to deal with it and learn to economize and not buy everything they want. They don’t have to go to the most expensive schools or every after school program out there. I could emphasize with the people who are devalued in our society like those caring for the elderly and children, teachers, social workers and those whose situations declined from downsizing, layoffs and serious medical conditions. These people are not appreciated for their work as they should be. The author suggests that our leaders, our courts and corporations help them out of the squeeze but I wouldn’t count on that happening any time in the near future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This book was poorly edited and organized; in addition, as a fairly well-read liberal, not a lot of new information was presented to me. I generally found myself more annoyed with the stories, rather than sympathetic. The one chapter that did engage me was on the nannies who come from other countries to care for others’ children, usually leaving their own behind in the care of grandparents. And I too worry about robots and AI contributing to unemployment, but the only solution presented was Univ This book was poorly edited and organized; in addition, as a fairly well-read liberal, not a lot of new information was presented to me. I generally found myself more annoyed with the stories, rather than sympathetic. The one chapter that did engage me was on the nannies who come from other countries to care for others’ children, usually leaving their own behind in the care of grandparents. And I too worry about robots and AI contributing to unemployment, but the only solution presented was Universal Basic Income, which to me doesn’t make a lot of sense from an economics standpoint. Other than that, most of the people profiled were in trouble because they had taken on enormous amounts of debt relative to their income. When this is the liberal argument, I can kind of understand conservative viewpoints on why this isn’t a public issue to solve (in other words, come up with better, liberals). I guess I expected to read more about specific policies and tax laws at a macro level, rather than lawyers who have 6 figure student loan debt and can’t find a job.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I admit to skimming the chapters on the upper edge of the middle class and the lower edge of the upper classes: I have little sympathy for their temporary financial predicaments or their problems with lifestyle creep or keeping up with the Joneses.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This book will piss you off. The American middle class is struggling to keep a sustainable lifestyle, but the outlook is pretty bleak unless politics change dramatically. Here's why: - Out of control housing costs in desirable cities because of wealthy people and Airbnb - Daycare and healthcare costs - Daycare becoming ever more necessary for working families - Unpredictable work schedules (see daycare above) - Universities not giving decent pay/hours/benefits to adjunct professors - Automation of tas This book will piss you off. The American middle class is struggling to keep a sustainable lifestyle, but the outlook is pretty bleak unless politics change dramatically. Here's why: - Out of control housing costs in desirable cities because of wealthy people and Airbnb - Daycare and healthcare costs - Daycare becoming ever more necessary for working families - Unpredictable work schedules (see daycare above) - Universities not giving decent pay/hours/benefits to adjunct professors - Automation of tasks in the fields of journalism, nursing, pharmacy, law and driving(!). Seriously, fuck robots. By 2021, automation will take away 6% of American jobs. - People wasting their time and money trying to pursue dream jobs and/or second act careers, especially by spending money on training at learning institutions that can't get them employed - University tuitions rising for no good reason and not providing a path to employment, but only massive, crushing debt for years - For-profit bullshit universities with no credentials (looking at you, Trump University and ITT) - Gig economy. Employers like Uber getting out of paying decent wages or benefits by calling employees independent contractors. Since 2008, one out of three workers is a freelancer! - Public schools not being funded enough to provide copy paper or subsitute teachers, pressing PTAs to fund some things we used to consider part of the public school experience - High cost of having children and difficulty of mothers working after having them - The wage gap getting bigger and bigger. "Between 1979 and 2007, earnings for the most privileged soared nearly ten times as fast as those for the bottom 90 percent." - Union enrollment is down to 1920s numbers - Deregulation and globalization - Since the financial crisis in 2008, newspapers started tightening their belts to the tune of 40% of workers in journalism being laid off (Hi, I'm Carrie and I lost my job at The Washington Post in 2017). - "1 percent TV" involving wildly wealthy main characters is normal TV, which makes people think being rich is normal. - Regular people are presenting themselves as if they were 1 percenters online, for example, by photographing high-end places more. *I disagree, however, that homemade apple crumb bar photos count as a 1 percenter sort of thing.* - Household incomes were 8% LOWER in 2014 than in 1999! - We are expected to lose 7.1 million jobs from 2016 to 2020; 2/3 of them in office/admin work (like mine). The book provides plenty of facts and personal accounts, some of which she has followed for years. My only criticisms are that she a) tells us how to feel, b) tells us too much about herself and c) doesn't seem concerned with the poor, only those who are falling into poverty from an advantaged background.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    Squeezed is a documentary style book, with chapters about various economic problems (childcare costs, rent costs, the deletion of tenured work in academia, etc) interspersed with personal stories of Americans trying to make it within this modern day gilded age of stagnant wages and massive inequality. While Quart offers some valuable insights, clearly has completed a lot of research and makes prescient points about the decline of the middle class and the treading water above poverty that so many Squeezed is a documentary style book, with chapters about various economic problems (childcare costs, rent costs, the deletion of tenured work in academia, etc) interspersed with personal stories of Americans trying to make it within this modern day gilded age of stagnant wages and massive inequality. While Quart offers some valuable insights, clearly has completed a lot of research and makes prescient points about the decline of the middle class and the treading water above poverty that so many of us feel, I think the book could have used a little more time in the editing process, as a couple of the chapters seemed to wander from their points and some of the imagery is repeated to the point of being irritating, versus precise. Additionally, the book felt unfinished, leaving those readers who find themselves in this Squeeze of resources and money, without any real advice or measure of hope, since these are systemic problems. I can't say I believe that if it's up to our politicians and policy-makers, that it will ever get better. 3 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Alissa Quart's book is interesting (in a generally-alarmed-for-society kind of way) as it looks at the ways that current trends are undercutting the middle class. She focuses particularly on housing, child care, and job trends, highlighting areas that are a struggle across a wide array of social groups. If her book has a weakness, it's that she keeps her eye fixed on urban and suburban areas (not surprisingly, since that's where most of the people/jobs/houses are). It just would have been good t Alissa Quart's book is interesting (in a generally-alarmed-for-society kind of way) as it looks at the ways that current trends are undercutting the middle class. She focuses particularly on housing, child care, and job trends, highlighting areas that are a struggle across a wide array of social groups. If her book has a weakness, it's that she keeps her eye fixed on urban and suburban areas (not surprisingly, since that's where most of the people/jobs/houses are). It just would have been good to see a few looks at "flyover country," which also has issues (and women and minorities who are struggling).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Basically, no matter what you do (get an education, work hard, yada yada) the deck is stacked against the 99% and there ain't NOTHING anyone can do about it!! Basically, no matter what you do (get an education, work hard, yada yada) the deck is stacked against the 99% and there ain't NOTHING anyone can do about it!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    As someone who is approaching retirement age this book opened my eyes to the cultural and economic changes that challenge the next generations. I found the book to be depressing and I'm not sure I agree with all of her analysis and conclusions. Still, I like a book that makes me think and this one did.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Jeub

    The research in this book is dense, and for that it is a much-needed book. Quart's research is unfortunately less than groundbreaking however, and doesn't go far enough in exploring the ramifications of her findings. While the opening chapters pointed to an overarching sense that our financial failings are not our fault - they are symptomatic of a crumbling system - the end offered nothing revolutionary. I mostly gleaned from her research to help support my own, as her most shocking findings wer The research in this book is dense, and for that it is a much-needed book. Quart's research is unfortunately less than groundbreaking however, and doesn't go far enough in exploring the ramifications of her findings. While the opening chapters pointed to an overarching sense that our financial failings are not our fault - they are symptomatic of a crumbling system - the end offered nothing revolutionary. I mostly gleaned from her research to help support my own, as her most shocking findings were peppered between endless chapters about how much I should feel bad for the middle class. For instance, this morsel of information was nestled in tiresome discussion about watching 1% TV: “The average top 1 percent family now earns forty times what the average family in the bottom 90 percent earns. Household incomes nationwide in 2014 were 8 percent lower than in 1999, according to Pew Research.” The fact is, I'm living in a world where nobody I know can afford TV, much less worry about what they're watching on TV. Quart admits that most, if not all, of her friends are as middle-class as herself, and the lack of diversity in her perspective shows. I had higher expectations, but Quart was still an interesting read and I'll be sure to read more from her in the future.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristel

    I read this nonfiction work by freelance journalist Alissa Quart for the A Q of her name (fit alpha kit). I think there are some interesting thoughts here but it mostly is a book about how this new generation of people with high college bills often from for profit colleges should be supported by the government. It addresses the disparity that mother's have trying to raise children. It addressed robots displacing workers. It addresses immigrants coming here to the US for work (poor work) and send I read this nonfiction work by freelance journalist Alissa Quart for the A Q of her name (fit alpha kit). I think there are some interesting thoughts here but it mostly is a book about how this new generation of people with high college bills often from for profit colleges should be supported by the government. It addresses the disparity that mother's have trying to raise children. It addressed robots displacing workers. It addresses immigrants coming here to the US for work (poor work) and sending their money back to support extended family. It says that people should not blame themselves and it at first sounds like they should blame everything else. The final conclusion to the problem is that the government needs to support people because there just isn't work or ability for people to support themselves. It is interesting to read about the evils of Uber and AirBnB. These are evil ideas taking advantage of humans and not paying out benefits and if we paid school teachers better there would be no one driving for Uber and if people had enough money they wouldn't be forced to rent out their homes. Nothing is new under the sun. I've been around many years. I remember the movement by the populace that they wanted people on medicaid to go to work and quit caring for their babies but now that it is hitting a different group of people there is now a push that government support these new workers in the work force so they can take care of their children, help their children with homework. This is another work of literature about what is wrong with American. But it is just one person's opinion.

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