Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America
It’s hard to imagine anyone being surprised by the finding’s in Alissa Quart’s latest book, Squeezed. The premise, that American families are struggling to make ends meet because wages are down, cost of living is up, and the recession hasn’t totally ended for millions of people, isn’t shocking. But, it is profoundly sad.
As a teacher in America, I work with students who come from the kinds of homes Quart discusses. The middle class is dying out, and these families are feeling it each and every day. Quart’s book breaks down the crisis into several categories, including those who are “hyper-educated and poor”—people with upper level teaching degrees who can’t find full time employment because the rise of adjunct professors has eliminated tenure track positions. And she looks at “Uber dads” who moonlight to make up for the income they aren’t earning at their places of primary employment. In addition to these, she delves into the costs of child care, the elimination of jobs due to automation (robots), and the very real phenomenon of parent’s crowd-sourcing their child’s interests, i.e. using GoFundMe to pay for a son’s horseback riding lessons.
It would be easy to fall back on the age-old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” idiom and dismiss Quart’s research, especially if you aren’t someone who has ever struggled financially. But, that easy fall back would be wrong. The only way to help everyone rise is to first acknowledge we have people who are drowning in debt, often through no fault of their own. Understanding the crisis is the first step, and Squeezed is a prefect first step in the right direction.
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