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« The Last Days of Democracy, by Elliot Cohen and Bruce Fraser | Main | Daily Life...Not appropriate for children »


The Missing Class, by Newman and Chen

By an everyday book reader
July 1, 2007

The Missing Class gives voice to the 57 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" - who have transformed their lives through hard work and determination.

The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America
by Katherine Newman, Victor Tan ChenBook Picture

Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780807041390
0807041394
Beacon Press
June 2007

An urgent examination of the lives of millions of hardworking Americans - neither poor nor middle class - who live without a safety net

Newman and Chen explain where these families came from, how they've struggled to make a decent living, and why they're stuck without a safety net.

The question for the Missing Class is not whether they're doing better than the truly poor - they are.

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. - Publishers Weekly

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. An eloquent argument for the need to think about inequality in a broader way, The Missing Class has much to tell us about whether the American dream still exists for those willing to sacrifice for it.

Newman writes:

"The near poor are people with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 a year for a family of four, or 100 to 200 percent of the poverty line. And there are actually almost twice as many of them as there are people under the poverty line--57 million in the US. They represent, on the one hand, an improvement, forward motion, the promise of upward mobility. But their lives are not stable. They truly are one paycheck, one lost job, one divorce or one sick child away from falling below the poverty line."

"A vivid, close-up, and often moving look at the urban 'near poor.'" - Barbara Ehrenreich

"With riveting detail, The Missing Class uses the compelling stories of nine families to portray a neglected group--more numerous than the officially poor--who work hard, play by the rules, yet live on the brink of disaster, one unlucky step away from plunging into poverty. Sensible and realistic programs, Newman and Chen show, could prevent their fall, reduce their insecurity, and help the Missing Class join the middle class." - Michael B. Katz, coauthor of One Nation Divisible: What America Was and What It Is Becoming

"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

Katherine S. Newman, the author of eight previous books, is the Forbes Class of '41 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Newman has appeared on CNN, Oprah, NBC, CBS, and NPR. Victor Tan Chen is the founding editor and president of INTHEFRAY Magazine.

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The blog post previous to it is titled "The Last Days of Democracy, by Elliot Cohen and Bruce Fraser"

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