Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It (Paperback)Richard V. Reeves (author)
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It is now conventional wisdom to focus on the wealth of the top 1 percent especially the top 0.01 percent and how the ultra-rich are concentrating income and prosperity while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant. But the most important, consequential, and widening gap in American society is between the upper middle class and everyone else.
Reeves defines the upper middle class as those whose incomes are in the top 20 percent of American society. Income is not the only way to measure a society, but in a market economy it is crucial because access to money generally determines who gets the best quality education, housing, health care, and other necessary goods and services.
As Reeves shows, the growing separation between the upper middle class and everyone else can be seen in family structure, neighborhoods, attitudes, and lifestyle. Those at the top of the income ladder are becoming more effective at passing on their status to their children, reducing overall social mobility. The result is not just an economic divide but a fracturing of American society along class lines. Upper-middle-class children become upper-middle-class adults.
These trends matter because the separation and perpetuation of the upper middle class corrode prospects for more progressive approaches to policy. Various forms of "opportunity hoarding" among the upper middle class make it harder for others to rise up to the top rung. Examples include zoning laws and schooling, occupational licensing, college application procedures, and the allocation of internships. Upper-middle-class opportunity hoarding, Reeves argues, results in a less competitive economy as well as a less open society.
Inequality is inevitable and can even be good, within limits. But Reeves argues that society can take effective action to reduce opportunity hoarding and thus promote broader opportunity. This fascinating book shows how American society has become the very class-defined society that earlier Americans rebelled against and what can be done to restore a more equitable society.
Publisher: Brookings Institution
Number of pages: 240
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
In the 2016 presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders claimed "the system is rigged." Brookings Institution fellow Richard Reeves doesn't disagree with that statement, though he takes issue with where the rigging occurs. For Reeves, it's not the top 1 percent but rather the rest of the top quintile--his "upper middle class"--that has garnered the lion's share of the income gains and has worked hard to protect its position in society. Recommended.--CHOICE
Reading Richard Reeves on social mobility is like going for a good walk: he is bracing, head clearing, and ultimately inspiring. With rigor and wit, his new book shows how millions of successful, hardworking Americans, often with the best of intentions, have helped build a society where birth matters more than brilliance. Impassioned, data-driven, and focused on practical solutions, Dream Hoarders is a fine cure for an age of stale, cynical politics.--David Rennie, The Economist
Richard Reeves has long been one of the most authoritative, insightful, and sage voices on the big questions gripping modern societies. Here he tackles one of the most urgent--inequality and how to solve it--and comes up with serious answers. --Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
An important new perspective on equality and mobility from one of America's best-informed and most articulate commentators on that topic. Reeves provocatively turns the current policy debate upside down--not "how do we increase upward mobility?" but "how do we increase downward mobility?" Certain to enliven dinner party conversations among America's upper-middle class elite--so if you are in that group, this book is a must-read.--Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
For decades, economists have worried about the western "poverty trap." But as Reeves shows, the "wealth trap" is every bit as sticky. It is harder to fall out of wealth in the US than it is in almost any other western democracy, Britain included.--FInancial Times
We have met the enemy, and he is us: we who were smart enough to pick the right parents and now occupy the high ground in post-industrial America. Richard Reeves and I differ on specifics, but Dream Hoarders rightly gets to the heart of things: if we treasure America's traditional civic culture and want to see it preserved for future generations, the upper middle class has to recognize how much responsibility it bears for the culture's plight and act accordingly. He makes that case brilliantly.--Charles Murray, American Enterprise Institute
Reeves's argument is seductive because it starts with some understated truths.--The New Republic
Richard Reeves's new book offers a trenchant diagnosis of the economic disparities that separate upper-middle-class Americans from those in the working class.--The National Review
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