STARRED REVIEW
July 2018

The vanishing middle class

By Alissa Quart
Review by

What Alissa Quart calls “the failing middle class vortex” is indeed a powerful force, growing stronger every day, as she knows from personal as well as professional experience. When her daughter was born, mounting day care and hospital costs forced Quart and her husband, both freelance writers in New York City, to adjust their lives. Now, as executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Quart spends her days investigating social and economic inequalities.

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What Alissa Quart calls “the failing middle class vortex” is indeed a powerful force, growing stronger every day, as she knows from personal as well as professional experience. When her daughter was born, mounting day care and hospital costs forced Quart and her husband, both freelance writers in New York City, to adjust their lives. Now, as executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Quart spends her days investigating social and economic inequalities.

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America provides an in-depth look at two things people all too often shy away from discussing: money and class. The term standard of living, Quart notes, is used less and less, perhaps because “the notion that a relatively high quality of life should include small pleasures and comforts has faded.”

Quart introduces readers to a variety of people and families being squeezed, whom she calls the Middle Precariat—a “just making-it group,” who “believed that their training or background would ensure that they would be properly, comfortably middle-class,” but whose assumptions turned out to be wrong.

There are teachers driving Uber, grading papers between rides; adjunct professors drowning in debt, whom Quart calls “the hyper-educated poor”; and immigrant nannies caring for wealthy families while their own children are left behind in their home country.

“Each story was like a tiny detail in a giant oil painting that allowed me to understand the whole picture in a different way,” Quart writes. She backs up these anecdotes with clear, sharp analysis, noting that a systemic problem is the undervaluation of caring professions such as teachers, day care workers and parents. She also points to a variety of solutions, including better, cheaper day care, a universal child allowance, public pre-K and universal basic income.

Like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Squeezed is a thoughtful, enlightening and painful analysis of the ever-growing divide in the American economy.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Squeezed

Squeezed

By Alissa Quart
Ecco
ISBN 9780062412256

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