Skip to content

Young and Isolated

Author and sociologist Jennifer M. Silva recently wrote in The New York Times about young working-class Americans and the bleak future they face. Her new book, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, analyzes the diminishing work opportunities and skyrocketing educational costs confronting these “Young and Isolated” (to use the title of her Times article) Americans. Perhaps an even bigger concern, according to Silva, is that these young people no longer have the kind of social support network that their parents once took for granted. If you would like to learn more about the social problems Silva outlines, check out Coming Up Short, as well as these other titles.


Amazon Says: What does it mean to grow up today as working-class young adults? How does the economic and social instability left in the wake of neoliberalism shape their identities, their more...
Amazon Says: What does it mean to grow up today as working-class young adults? How does the economic and social instability left in the wake of neoliberalism shape their identities, their understandings of the American Dream, and their futures? Coming Up Short illuminates the transition to adulthood for working-class men and women. Moving away from easy labels such as the "Peter Pan generation," Jennifer Silva reveals the far bleaker picture of how the erosion of traditional markers of adulthood-marriage, a steady job, a house of one's own-has changed what it means to grow up as part of the post-industrial working class. Based on one hundred interviews with working-class people in two towns-Lowell, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia-Silva sheds light on their experience of heightened economic insecurity, deepening inequality, and uncertainty about marriage and family. Silva argues that, for these men and women, coming of age means coming to terms with the absence of choice. As possibilities and hope contract, moving into adulthood has been re-defined as a process of personal struggle-an adult is no longer someone with a small home and a reliable car, but someone who has faced and overcome personal demons to reconstruct a transformed self. Indeed, rather than turn to politics to restore the traditional working class, this generation builds meaning and dignity through the struggle to exorcise the demons of familial abuse, mental health problems, addiction, or betrayal in past relationships. This dramatic and largely unnoticed shift reduces becoming an adult to solitary suffering, self-blame, and an endless seeking for signs of progress. This powerfully written book focuses on those who are most vulnerable-young, working-class people, including African-Americans, women, and single parents-and reveals what, in very real terms, the demise of the social safety net means to their fragile hold on the American Dream. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: Why are adults in their twenties and thirties stuck in their parents’ homes in the world’s wealthiest countries?   There’s no question that globalization has drastica more...
Amazon Says: Why are adults in their twenties and thirties stuck in their parents’ homes in the world’s wealthiest countries?   There’s no question that globalization has drastically changed the cultural landscape across the world. The cost of living is rising, and high unemployment rates have created an untenable economic climate that has severely compromised the path to adulthood for young people in their twenties and thirties. And there’s no end in sight. Families are hunkering down, expanding the reach of their households to envelop economically vulnerable young adults. Acclaimed sociologist Katherine Newman explores the trend toward a rising number of “accordion families” composed of adult children who will be living off their parents’ retirement savings with little means of their own when the older generation is gone.   While the trend crosses the developed world, the cultural and political responses to accordion families differ dramatically. In Japan, there is a sense of horror and fear associated with “parasite singles,” whereas in Italy, the “cult of mammismo,” or mamma’s boys, is common and widely accepted, though the government is rallying against it. Meanwhile, in Spain, frustrated parents and millenials angrily blame politicians and big business for the growing number of youth forced to live at home.   Newman’s investigation, conducted in six countries, transports the reader into the homes of accordion families and uncovers fascinating links between globalization and the failure-to-launch trend. Drawing from over three hundred interviews, Newman concludes that nations with weak welfare states have the highest frequency of accordion families while the trend is virtually unknown in the Nordic countries. The United States is caught in between. But globalization is reshaping the landscape of adulthood everywhere, and the consequences are far-reaching in our private lives. In this gripping and urgent book, Newman urges Americans not to simply dismiss the boomerang generation but, rather, to strategize how we can help the younger generation make its own place in the world.   less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: It’s the parenting guide for parents who thought they no longer needed one—for parents who worry as their 20-something kids struggle to grow up; who are saving for retirem more...
Amazon Says: It’s the parenting guide for parents who thought they no longer needed one—for parents who worry as their 20-something kids struggle to grow up; who are saving for retirement but now have to reopen the bank of Mom and Dad; who look forward to downsizing but have a boomerang child living at home again.And it’s the parenting guide that says it’s all going to be OK—just step back but stay connected, and don’t forget to take care of yourself. Kids may be taking longer to graduate from college, start a career, marry, have children, but it’s natural. Just as scientists a century ago discovered a new phase in life called adolescence, there’s now another developmental stage, emerging adulthood. According to Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, the world’s leading authority on emerging adults, and his coauthor, Elizabeth Fishel, author of Sisters and mother of two 20-something sons, the time spent in emerging adulthood actually helps kids become happier, healthier grown-ups.When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? covers every aspect of life for an 18- to 29-year-old, from that first taste of independence at college to that time at the end of the 20s, when the majority of kids are settling down. It explains what grown children are going through—intense self-focus, instability, a feeling of being “in-between” mixed with a breathtaking sense of possibilities—and how parents should deal with these changes, from six ways to listen more than you talk, to money 101 (and why never to use money to control your child’s life), to troubleshooting their failure to launch, to, finally, the dos and don’ts of promoting a successful transition to adulthood.Because yes, they really will grow up. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: Alan Collinge never imagined he would become a student loan justice activist. He planned to land a solid job after college, repay his student loan debt, and then simply forget more...
Amazon Says: Alan Collinge never imagined he would become a student loan justice activist. He planned to land a solid job after college, repay his student loan debt, and then simply forget the loans ever existed. Like millions of Americans, however, in spite of working hard, Collinge fell behind on payments and entered a labyrinthine student loan nightmare. High school graduates can no longer put themselves through college for a few thousand dollars in loan debt. Today, the average undergraduate borrower leaves school with more than $20,000 in student loans, and for graduate students the average is a whopping $42,000. For the past twenty years, college tuition has increased at more than double the rate of inflation, with the cost largely shifting to student debt. The Student Loan Scam is an exposé of the predatory nature of the $85-billion student loan industry. In this in-depth exploration, Collinge argues that student loans have become the most profitable, uncompetitive, and oppressive type of debt in American history. This has occurred in large part due to federal legislation passed since the mid-1990s that removed standard consumer protections from student loans-and allowed for massive penalties and draconian wealth-extraction mechanisms to collect this inflated debt. Collinge covers the history of student loans, the rise of Sallie Mae, and how universities have profited at the expense of students. The book includes candid and compelling stories from people across the country about how both nonprofit and for-profit student loan companies, aided by poor legislation, have shattered their lives-and livelihoods. With nearly 5 million defaulted loans, this crisis is growing to epic proportions. The Student Loan Scam takes an unflinching look at this unprecedented and pressing problem, while exposing the powerful organizations and individuals who caused it to happen. Ultimately, Collinge argues for the return of standard consumer protections for student loans, among other pragmatic solutions, in this clarion call for social action. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: The 2013 National Book Award WinnerA New York Times Bestseller Selected by New York Times’ critic Dwight Garner as a Favorite Book of 2013 One of Amazon's Best Books of 201 more...
Amazon Says: The 2013 National Book Award WinnerA New York Times Bestseller Selected by New York Times’ critic Dwight Garner as a Favorite Book of 2013 One of Amazon's Best Books of 2013 A New York Times Notable Book of 2013 A Washington Post Best Political Book of 2013 An NPR Best Book of 2013 A New Republic Best Book of 2013 One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013 A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013 A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.      The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents.      The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: What lies on the other side of Great Recession? While the most acute part of the economic crisis is past, the downturn's most significant impact on American life remains in th more...
Amazon Says: What lies on the other side of Great Recession? While the most acute part of the economic crisis is past, the downturn's most significant impact on American life remains in the future. The personal, cultural, and political changes that result from severe economic shocks build slowly. But history shows us that, ultimately, downturns like this one profoundly alter the character of society.   Don Peck's Pinched keenly observes how the recession has changed the places we live, the work we do, and even who we are--and details the transformations that are yet to come.  Every class and every generation will be affected: newly minted college graduates, blue-collar men, affluent professionals, exurban families, elite financiers, middle-class retirees.   The crash has shifted the course of the economy.  In its aftermath, the middle class is shrinking faster, wealth is becoming more concentrated, twenty-somethings are sinking, and working-class families and communities are changing in unsavory ways.   We sit today between two eras, buffeted, anxious, and uncertain of the future.  Through vivid reporting and lucid argument, Peck helps us make sense of how our society has changed, and why so many people are still struggling.   The answers to these questions reveal a new way forward for America.  The country has endured periods like this one before, and has emerged all the stronger from them; adaptation and reinvention have been perhaps the nation's best and most enduring traits.  The time is ripe for another such reinvention.  Pinched lays out the principles and public actions that can help us pull it off. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: A New York Times bestseller America’s unique prosperity is based on its creation of a middle class. In the twentieth century, that middle class provided the workforc more...
Amazon Says: A New York Times bestseller America’s unique prosperity is based on its creation of a middle class. In the twentieth century, that middle class provided the workforce, the educated skills, and the demand that gave life to the world’s greatest consumer economy. It was innovative and dynamic; it eclipsed old imperial systems and colonial archetypes. It gave rise to a dream: that if you worked hard and followed the rules you would prosper in America, and your children would enjoy a better life than yours. The American dream was the lure to gifted immigrants and the birthright opportunity for every American citizen. It is as important a part of the history of the country as the passing of the Bill of Rights, the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg, or the space program. Incredibly, however, for more than thirty years, government and big business in America have conspired to roll back the American dream. What was once accessible to a wide swath of the population is increasingly open only to a privileged few. The story of how the American middle class has been systematically impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite is at the heart of this extraordinarily timely and revealing book, whose devastating findings from two of the finest investigative reporters in the country will leave you astonished and angry. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: From the famed author of the bestselling The Second Shift and The Time Bind, a pathbreaking look at the transformation of private life in our for-profit worldThe family has lo more...
Amazon Says: From the famed author of the bestselling The Second Shift and The Time Bind, a pathbreaking look at the transformation of private life in our for-profit worldThe family has long been a haven in a heartless world, the one place immune to market forces and economic calculations, where the personal, the private, and the emotional hold sway. Yet as Arlie Russell Hochschild shows in The Outsourced Self, that is no longer the case: everything that was once part of private life—love, friendship, child rearing—is being transformed into packaged expertise to be sold back to confused, harried Americans.Drawing on hundreds of interviews and original research, Hochschild follows the incursions of the market into every stage of intimate life. From dating services that train you to be the CEO of your love life to wedding planners who create a couple's "personal narrative"; from nameologists (who help you name your child) to wantologists (who help you name your goals); from commercial surrogate farms in India to hired mourners who will scatter your loved one's ashes in the ocean of your choice—Hochschild reveals a world in which the most intuitive and emotional of human acts have become work for hire.Sharp and clear-eyed, Hochschild is full of sympathy for overstressed, outsourcing Americans, even as she warns of the market's threat to the personal realm they are striving so hard to preserve. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work; but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified and desc more...
Amazon Says: Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work; but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified and describes in this brilliant volume, "Bowling Alone." Drawing on vast new data from the Roper Social and Political Trends and the DDB Needham Life Style -- surveys that report in detail on Americans' changing behavior over the past twenty-five years -- Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures, whether the PTA, church, recreation clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues. Our shrinking access to the "social capital" that is the reward of communal activity and community sharing is a serious threat to our civic and personal health. Putnam's groundbreaking work shows how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction. For example, he reports that getting married is the equivalent of quadrupling your income and attending a club meeting regularly is the equivalent of doubling your income. The loss of social capital is felt in critical ways: Communities with less social capital have lower educational performance and more teen pregnancy, child suicide, low birth weight, and prenatal mortality. Social capital is also a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, as it is of our health: In quantitative terms, if you both smoke and belong to no groups, it's a close call as to which is the riskier behavior. A hundred years ago, at the turn of the last century, America's stock of social capital was at an ebb, reduced by urbanization, industrialization, and vast immigration thatuprooted Americans from their friends, social institutions, and families, a situation similar to today's. Faced with this challenge, the country righted itself. Within a few decades, a range of organizations was created, from the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and YWCA to Hadassah and the Knights of Columbus and the Urban League. With these and many more cooperative societies we rebuilt our social capital. We can learn from the experience of those decades, Putnam writes, as we work to rebuild our eroded social capital. It won't happen without the concerted creativity and energy of Americans nationwide. Like defining works from the past that have endured -- such as "The Lonely Crowd" and "The Affluent Society" -- and like C. Wright Mills, Richard Hofstadter, Betty Friedan, David Riesman, Jane Jacobs, Rachel Carson, and Theodore Roszak, Putnam has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do. less...
Amazon
Print

Comment about this page...