Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It

March 21, 2012

From the Publisher:

Atlantic journalist Don Peck explains how economic weakness is slowly narrowing the life opportunities for millions of Americans, and why the most pronounced effects of the recession are yet to come. According to Peck, every class and every generation will be affected, including newly minted college graduates, blue-collar men, affluent professionals, exurban families, elite financiers, inner-city youth, and middle-class retirees. He provides much needed historical perspective, explaining how society changed over the course of other long, deep downturns–and what finally ended them. “In truth, societies never simply ‘recover’ from downturns this severe,” says Peck. “They emerge from them different than they were before–stronger in some ways, weaker in others, and in many respects simply transformed.”

Through vivid reporting and lucid argument, Peck helps us make sense of how our society has changed and recommends specific steps on how to mitigate the most difficult problems the recession had caused, many of which we’ve only begun to wrestle with. He extrapolates the consequences and possible responses by looking at the panic of the 1890s, the Great Depression, and the oil-shock recessions of the 1970s. What does he find? The middle class is shrinking faster, wealth is becoming more concentrated, twentysomethings are sinking, and working-class families and communities are changing in unsavory ways. Long bouts of unemployment provoke long-lasting changes in behavior and mental health. When jobs are scarce, communities, and even whole generations can be permanently scarred. Even the nature of marriage is changing as a result of hard times. Research shows that joblessness and economic distress prevent new marriages, corrode existing ones and make divorce much more likely down the road. Calls to the National Domestic Violence hotline rose by almost 20% from 2007 to 2010. In addition, the Great Recession has delayed the ability of young adults to reach the milestones that society has always associated with full adulthood and that many of them want to accept.

Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It, by Don Peck. New York : Crown Pub., 2011. 223 p. ISBN 9780307886521

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