Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America

Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America

by Katherine S. Newman, Victor Tan Chen
     
 

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Named one of the Best Business Books of 2007 by Library Journal

The Missing Class gives voice to the 54 million Americans, including 21 percent of the nation's children, who are sandwiched between poor and middle class. While government programs help the needy and politicians woo the more fortunate, the "Missing Class" is largely invisible and

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Overview

Named one of the Best Business Books of 2007 by Library Journal

The Missing Class gives voice to the 54 million Americans, including 21 percent of the nation's children, who are sandwiched between poor and middle class. While government programs help the needy and politicians woo the more fortunate, the "Missing Class" is largely invisible and ignored. Through the experiences of nine families, Katherine Newman and Victor Tan Chen trace the unique problems faced by individuals in this large and growing demographic-the "near poor." The question for the Missing Class is not whether they're doing better than the truly poor-they are. The question is whether these individuals, on the razor's edge of subsistence, are safely ensconced in the Missing Class or in danger of losing it all. The Missing Class has much to tell us about whether the American dream still exists for those who are sacrificing daily to achieve it.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In this compassionate and clear-eyed analysis . . . Newman and Chen contribute significantly to the dialogue on America's widening inequities. —Publishers Weekly

"The Missing Class is a call to action to change America."—Senator John Edwards

"At last, a focus on people who struggle from month to month with housing, health care and education costs but don't fit into the government's comfortingly minimalist definition of poverty. Newman and Chen give us a vivid, close-up, and often moving look at the urban 'near poor.' An excellent follow-up to Newman's essential body of work on America's economic anxieties."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

"Just above the artificial 'poverty line,' millions of hard-working people struggle invisibly to gain a foothold on the promise of the American Dream. Their raw hardships and persistent hopes, collected in this book of unflinching portraits, ought to sound the alarm for an America grown complacent."—David Shipler, author of The Working Poor: Invisible in America

Publishers Weekly

In this compassionate and clear-eyed analysis, sociologist Newman and journalist Chen posit that the middle class gains of the 1990s have been imperiled by the recent rollback of New Deal-style government aid. Millions of Americans climbed above the poverty line at the end of the 20th century, but since then, the risk of falling back has grown substantially. This policy-oriented collection of case studies addresses the plight of the 57 million near-poor, a largely overlooked "missing class" just out of reach of public assistance. Despite decent wages, the authors argue, the near-poor are saddled with various burdens that keep them hovering one disaster away from outright poverty and put their children at high risk of sliding down the economic ladder. Drawing on interviews conducted from 1995 to 2002 with families and public service professionals in the New York area, the authors chart in alternately uplifting and dismal detail the distinct perspectives of several low-income households. While they don't address those entering the missing class from above and perhaps too easily extrapolate from their conclusions, Newman and Chen contribute significantly to the dialogue on America's widening inequities. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The lives of nine families just barely scraping by in four New York City neighborhoods. Puerto Ricans in Sunset Park, Dominicans in Washington Heights, African-Americans in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, they all fall into the authors' "missing class": the 57-million Americans (one fifth of the population) living just above the truly poor but below the middle class. Newman (Sociology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.; A Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City, 2003, etc.) and Chen (editor of INTHEFRAY Magazine) got to know these families and their neighborhoods well between 1995 to 2002. Assisted by a fieldwork research team, they interviewed employers, teachers, community leaders, police and various service providers in addition to the family members themselves. What characterizes the missing class, the authors conclude, is precariousness: a single incident, such as the loss of a job, an accident, illness or divorce, can plunge its members downward into poverty. They work hard, sometimes holding down two jobs, but they don't have bank accounts, don't own their homes and have little or no health insurance. Most run continuous balances on their credit cards, paying high interest rates and large fees. They lack the time to supervise their children and are often saddled with the additional responsibility of poverty-stricken relatives who ask for money or move in. In nearly overwhelming detail, Newman and Chen create a grim picture of what life is like without a safety net. These "forgotten but vital" Americans deserve respect for what they have already accomplished, the authors assert, and they need society's support in housing, education, health care and job trainingif they are to keep hold of the gains they have made. The concluding chapter examines specific strategies for facilitating home and car ownership, encouraging savings, bringing grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods, reducing school dropout rates and making college accessible and affordable. The many fragmented individual stories tend to blur together, but the message comes through loud and clear. Agent: Lisa Adams/Garamond Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807041406
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
09/01/2008
Edition description:
None
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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