It wasn’t long ago that the term 'middle class' suggested security, conformity and often complacency...Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, arrives at a moment when members of the middle class are no longer a robust demographic but an embattled and shrinking population, struggling to hold on to their delicate perch in an unforgiving economic order ... 'They are people on the brink who did everything right,' Quart writes, 'and yet the math of their family lives is simply not adding up.'
In this suitable match of author and subject, Alissa Quart, executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Project (founded by Barbara Ehrenreich), lucidly demonstrates that for many, the dream of such satisfaction is increasingly out of reach ... Unlike recent books that are similar in spirit...Quart’s narrative focuses not on the bottom levels of American poverty but rather on the segment of the population that many of us would be surprised to learn are struggling to keep their heads above water ... Quart is especially good with the psychological dimensions involved in this pervasive problem ... Most readers will likely agree that the game is rigged, and Quart accessibly lays out the mechanics of the game ... Though she doesn’t offer sweeping agendas for change, the book is full of useful, good-sense ideas that legislators and other leaders should heed.
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.
...The people Quart meets are generally clear-eyed about their predicament, 'desperately holding onto their status and trying to keep up appearances' but privately buried in debt and constantly, corrosively worried about how they'll survive another year or another month ... It all adds up to an almost smotheringly bleak picture of an America in which a two-income middle-class household can no longer afford to have children ... it's easy to agree with the stunned, exasperated sentiment of everybody in this book: It wasn't supposed to be this way.
What Squeezed adds to the picture is a keen understanding of the bewilderment, shame and self-doubt that millennial parents now feel ... Squeezed captures well the toxic combination of American individualism and the disrupted evolution of particular professions that has left millions of millennials in a more fragile financial condition than they expected would be their lot in life ... Squeezed could just as easily have been titled Duped because the underlying assumption that millennials should have seen this disaster coming is palpable throughout.
Diligently reporting on the troubles facing 'Middle Precariat' families, Quart doesn’t offer much that is news ... What is perhaps unusual about Quart’s book is her attention to how we feel about it — specifically our peculiar willingness to take personal responsibility for problems that are not our fault ... Quart has tried to write a book that is not uniformly depressing, and at the end of some chapters she describes ways people have attempted to better their situations with unconventional arrangements.
Quart, the executive editor of the New York-based Economic Hardship Reporting Project, has no unified field theory for this new world...But Squeezed does deliver colour, and the stories of a falling down middle class reflect a felt experience of anxiety that is often lost in data-driven tales of recession and recovery ... Quart is particularly sharp on behavioural psychology and the economics of class.
An intimate, sometimes demoralizing journey across the U.S. ... Alissa Quart lucidly recounts these and other wrenching stories of economic hardship, while meticulously deconstructing some of the prevailing myths about middle-class life in the United States ... Writing in a sharp-edged tone ... At times, Squeezed can feel like an anxiety-inducing plane trip marked by nonstop turbulence. The stories of injustice build, one on top of another, until the reader feels claustrophobic — walled in by the anxiety, debt, overwork and isolation so vividly described ... Squeezed stands out for its insightful analysis of class dynamics in the United States.
Fighting to stay in the middle class...She cites the rising costs of education, health care, rent, and day care as well as the negative effects of unstable work hours, declining unionism, the gig and freelance economy, the bias against mothers and older workers, automation, and the political shift to the right ... The author delivers painful portraits of underemployed law school graduates, Uber-driving schoolteachers, and adjunct college professors ... Some readers may balk at Quart’s concern over the 'psychological burden' facing upper-middle-class denizens in overpriced cities, but she offers excellent discussions of co-parenting, the problems facing immigrants, and the perils of enrolling in for-profit schools.
Quart deep dives into the struggle of ordinary families whose middle-class American dream is frustratingly out of reach. Pregnancy discrimination, childcare that can cost more than college, crippling student loan debt, limitations on midlife career makeovers, and robots replacing humans are just some of the barriers to job stability and financial solvency she covers ... Her ambitious, top-tier reportage tells a powerful story of America today.