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The Forgotten Americans: Thirty Million Working Poor in the Land of Opportunity

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“John E. Schwarz and Thomas J. Volgy have joined forces to produce an incisive analysis of the nation’s economic problems, illustrated their book with real people, and linked their material to the political process. This is a major contribution to the most important debate taking place in America. —Thomas B. Edsall
Does the American Dream still exist when nearly 30 million Americans live in families in which workers find a paycheck and poverty in the same envelope? Just as Michael Harrington's The Other America ...
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Overview

“John E. Schwarz and Thomas J. Volgy have joined forces to produce an incisive analysis of the nation’s economic problems, illustrated their book with real people, and linked their material to the political process. This is a major contribution to the most important debate taking place in America. —Thomas B. Edsall
Does the American Dream still exist when nearly 30 million Americans live in families in which workers find a paycheck and poverty in the same envelope? Just as Michael Harrington's The Other America shocked the nation with its disclosure of poverty in the 1960s, John E. Schwarz and Thomas J. Volgy's The Forgotten Americans exposes the breadth of poverty that exists today among responsible, hardworking Americans. At the end of the prosperous 1980s, the number of Americans living in working-poor families equaled the combined populations of the nation's 25 largest cities. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this situation is not largely confined to minorities, women, the undereducated or young adults. It is commonplace for workers from nearly all segments of society to be employed in low-paying jobs even during good economic times. The Forgotten Americans reveals the betrayal of the hopes and expectations of these industrious people through broad-based factual evidence and the real-life stories of individual families. Their hardship has been ignored at enormous cost to them and the country. Numerous problems at the forefront of national debate—welfare dependency, crime, and the inadequate performance of many American school children—are closely connected to the existence of working poverty on a large scale. Unless corrective action is taken, the country risks the creation of a deeply fractured society arising from the despair of millions of employed people who have discovered that practicing the work ethic yields little reward. The problem is staggering and often misunderstood by politicians, the media, and the public. Once Schwarz and Volgy have outlined the implications of this social and economic tragedy, they propose effective solutions that require simple changes to existing policies—solutions that are politically feasible and can be accomplished without new taxes.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a concise exploration of the problems of the working poor, two political scientists from the University of Arizona provide just enough statistics to prove their point: hard work, a good education, an unblemished employment history and/or a full-time job will not necessarily prevent a person from falling below the poverty line in the United States. In fact, Schwarz and Volgy challenge the government's very definition of poverty, stating (and backing up their contention with the budgets of actual households) that a family must make at least 50% more than the amount that constitutes the official ``poverty line'' in order to meet its basic needs. They recommend raising the minimum wage and providing substantial tax credits to people with low-paying full-time jobs. They dismiss such proposed solutions as ``enterprise zones'' and the infusion of foreign capital. The book recalls the classic work of Malthus--not in its conclusions, but in its terse, trenchant analysis of grim facts. ( Sept. )
Library Journal
One of the problems emerging in the recent welfare reform debate is the dilemma facing those leaving public assistance for low-wage employment. Losing such noncash benefits as food stamps and Medicaid, these new workers join the ranks of the ``working poor'' and become ``the forgotten Americans.'' In this persuasive book, political scientists Schwarz and Volgy (who is also mayor of Tucson, Arizona) combine anecdotal material on the struggles of low-income families with a review of government poverty calculations and their plans for reform. The authors contend that the real size of this group is masked by the fact that the official ``poverty line'' lies far below actual economic insufficiency. The result is that millions of Americans who in fact are poor are not counted as such. To raise their standard of living, Schwarz and Volgy propose an increase in the minimum wage combined with an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which would bridge the gap between wages and a decent life. Recommended for all libraries.-- Mary Jane Ballou, Ford Fdn. Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393964219
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/17/1993
  • Pages: 239
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John E. Schwarz is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Arizona in Tucson and senior distinguished fellow at Demos in New York City. In addition to his five previous books, he has written for The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times, among others.
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Table of Contents

List of Titles
Preface
1 The American Ethos and the American People 3
2 On the Economic Front Lines: Two American Families 16
3 Economic Self-sufficiency in Present-day America 32
4 America's Families, American Workers, and Economic Hardship: The Scope of the Problem 53
5 Working Americans and Economic Hardship: The Scope of the Problem 72
6 Other Casualties of the Job Shortage 92
7 A View from City Hall 107
8 The Path of Action 130
Epilogue: A Call for Action 149
Appendix 169
Notes 173
Bibliography 199
Index 211
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