Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents"

New from Beacon Press: Not Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class by Nan Mooney.

About the book, from the publisher:

How stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership are jeopardizing today's educated middle class

Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with diverse families across America, Nan Mooney explores the financial struggles of today's professional middle class, delving into their sense of economic security and their plans for and fears about the future.

Mooney shows how profoundly middle class expectations and realities have shifted: college tuition has increased 35 percent in the past five years; only 18 percent of middle class families have three months' income saved, and 90 percent of those filing for bankruptcy are middle class. Additionally, the share of family income devoted to "fixed costs"—housing, childcare, health insurance, and taxes—has climbed from 53 percent to 75 percent in the past two decades, and raising one child through age eighteen costs $237,000 for a middle-income family.

Despite this sobering reality, Mooney offers proactive and concrete ideas on how individuals and society can stop this downward spiral. She advocates improving government-backed education, healthcare, and childcare programs as well as drawing on successful models from individual states and other countries.

Facts from (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents

Ninety percent of those filing for bankruptcy today are middle class.

Average college loan debt is nearly $20,000; average graduate school loan debt is $46,000.

Credit card debt has risen 31 percent in the past five years; middle- and low-income households owe an average of $8,650; a third owe over $10,000.

Health care premiums have increased at five times the rate of inflation since 2000.

Mortgages have now reached 96 percent of disposable income.

The median wealth of white households is $86,100, as opposed to $19,010 for black households and $11,450 for Latino households.

Between 1979 and 2003, income for the middle fifth of the population grew just 9 percent, while the income for the top 1 percent jumped by 111 percent.

Twenty-three percent of public college graduates and 38 percent of private college graduates would have an unmanageable level of debt if they were to live on a teacher's starting salary.
Visit Nan Mooney's website.