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Stemming Middle-Class Decline: The Challenges to Economic Development Planning

Overview

Are Americans as well-off as they used to be? The answer affects everything from product markets and housing sales to social tranquility and presidential (and local) elections. This volume examines what is happening to the American middle class. In a detailed and comprehensive analysis, Nancey Green Leigh tracks changes in the pattern of income distribution over a twenty-year period. While earnings have increased, there is a widening gap between what middle-level earnings can ...

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Overview

Are Americans as well-off as they used to be? The answer affects everything from product markets and housing sales to social tranquility and presidential (and local) elections. This volume examines what is happening to the American middle class. In a detailed and comprehensive analysis, Nancey Green Leigh tracks changes in the pattern of income distribution over a twenty-year period. While earnings have increased, there is a widening gap between what middle-level earnings can purchase and the cost of a middle standard of living.

Due to the fact that this decline has not been experienced equally in all regions, separate analyses are reported for urban and rural locations, major census regions, and the largest states. To identify which workers have been most affected, Leigh compares earning trends by race, gender, educational level, industry of employment, part- or full-time status, and fringe benefit recipiency. Rejecting short-term and demographic explanations, Leigh links the decline of the middle class to economic change and industrial restructuring.

Leigh concludes her work by examining planning and policy prescriptions to improve the prospects of members—and aspiring members—of the middle economic class. She documents the decreasing ability of middle-level earners to purchase a middle standard of living and attributes the decline in part to failures in planning. Failures of planning, she observes, have contributed to the growing divergence between middle-level earnings and the middle standard of living. Stemming Middle-Class Decline provides comprehensive data and trends on workers, communities, regions, and the nation that all policymakers and government officials should read and examine with care.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Leigh advocates governmental economic strategic planning, regional planning, and investment in social infrastructure as ways to increase the size of the middle class . . . Recommended”

—E. P. Hoffman, Choice

“Nancey Green Leigh begins her book Stemming Middle-Class Decline by providing a definition of the middle class, a step necessitated by complications arising from what is understood by the term 'middle class' . . . For Leigh the focus is on the middle economic class rather than the middle social class . . . This is a comprehensive book, well written and easy to read which provides plenty of tables and is full of insights. Those concerned with the issues of the middle-class, issues that are receiving increased attention from politicians and policymakers, should not miss it.”

—Edward Nissan, Growth and Change

Stemming Middle-Class Decline contributes to the ongoing debate: Is the middle class shrinking? . . . Measuring changes and trends in income inequality is critical for understanding whether our standard of living is improving or eroding. It is also a complex measurement issue. A major contribution of this book is to measure change in the middle class with a different set of data, a fresh definition of middle income, and a distinct time period. Because her analysis is thorough and well presented, Leigh’s book is a significant contribution to the debate, and recommended reading for those interested in national and regional trends in income inequality.”

—Marie Howland, Journal of American Planning Association

“In this book, Nancey Green Leigh probes various dimensions of the decline in persons with middle class earnings over the period 1967-1987. She is interested in the magnitude of the decline, its impact across regions, and the extent to which the decline is explained by industrial restructuring. As the book’s subtitle suggests, she also discusses the extent to which planning can stem the decline she documents . . . I think, that Leigh’s call for greater government involvement is on its strongest ground—to make sure that the accelerating pace of technical change does not simply divide the country into winners and losers and that we can proceed through the current economic transition as a single nation.”

—Frank Levy, Journal of Regional Science

"[A] very useful book."

—Annals, American Academy of Political and Social Science

"Focus[es] on what planners can do to maintain a middle-class quality of life."

—Journal of Architectural and Planning Research

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780882851495
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Pages: 238
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancey Green Leigh is professor of city and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow and Regents Fellow of the University of California and past vice president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. Her writings have appeared in the Journal of Planning Literature, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, and Economic Development Quarterly.

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Table of Contents

Tables
Figures
Acknowledgments
1 Are Americans as Well-Off as We Used to Be? 1
2 What Is Happening to Middle-Level Earners? 11
3 The Middle Standard of Living 32
4 Industrial Restructuring's Influence on the Distribution of Earnings 39
5 The Rural and Urban Distinction in Industrial Restructuring 81
6 The Regional Implications of Industrial Restructuring 120
7 Changing Earnings Distributions and Opportunities for Middle-Class Living: What Should Be Done? 176
Notes 199
References 207
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