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Generation Debt Hardcover – February 2, 2006

3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Surveying the economic realities facing today's 20- and 30-somethings, 24-four-old Kamenetz decides, "It's not too dramatic to say that the nation is abandoning its children." Thanks to skyrocketing tuition and changes in federal funding, college students are graduating with an average of almost $20,000 in loans at the same time that jobs have become scarcer, real wages have dropped and the cost of health care has soared. Is it any wonder that kids are boomeranging home and racking up credit card debt? Kamenetz, who first wrote about these issues for the Village Voice, intertwines an analytical overview of the new economic obstacles with interviews of the financially strapped and descriptions of her own experience struggling to make ends meet as a freelance journalist. Her book is livelier than Tamara Draut's similarly themed Strapped, but lighter in its analysis of law and policy. Most interestingly, Kamenetz documents how our perception of the crisis is shaped by self-centered boomers who have lost touch with their children's plight. More of a white paper than a guidebook, this volume doesn't offer under-40s much personal financial advice (that job is taken up by Gener@tion Debt, see review below). It does, however, make clear how imperative it is that we find solutions to these problems as quickly as possible. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A new book tackles the 18-to-35-year-old generation's problems--those they face and those they create.Kamenetz believes the younger generation is hampered by the fact that salaries and job opportunities haven't kept up with drastically increasing costs of living. Because of the exorbitant cost of college, many young people can't afford to go, and those who do go graduate with huge debt. Graduates expect to pay off those loans once they get jobs, but entry-level jobs often come with low wages. The job prospects are even worse for those who don't finish or who don't go to college at all--some can't even afford living on their own, another drastically increased cost. The solution to these problems? Kamenetz makes a passionate argument for young people to take action, such as lobbying the government as a cohesive group and being practical and frugal about money matters.

Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (February 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594489076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489075
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,032,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the age of 50, I have seen the deterioration of the job market over the past 25 years, to the point where there are very few jobs that can be obtained with a BA or BS degree that will not be outsourced. In addition, I have watched as companies sold out their employees for the bottom line and the almghty dollar. It has become nearly impossible to stay in a job for very long, which in turn makes it very hard to pay down student debt.

I currently have a child in high school and I watch with amazement as districts push more and more students into the college merry-go-round with little thought as to whether or not they will be able to handle the work, or even finish a degree. At the same time I have watched as programs that would be very useful to the majority of today's kids are cut because the world has become so focused on testing and keeping little "Johnny" up to speed when he should be held back.

An example is the auto shop programs from when I was in high school. You could leave high school and get a job working as an auto mechanic directly from school. The programs now don't have the financing to buy the computer technology needed for these kids to actualy work as mechanics, even though the vast majority of graduating students will never go to college and will need some type of vo-tech training before they can become employable.

As is pointed out in this book, maybe we should re-examine the needs and desires of todays students to see what classes will actually beneft them. Adding classes which will allow students to work directly from school would decrease their debt loading and it would free up college space, as well as help employers get emplyees with a good solid training in a field that they want to work in.
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Format: Hardcover
While reading through this book I continually found myself thinking two things: she's probably correct, and she doesn't really know why.

Generation Debt is at its best when it emphasizes statistics and constant dollar comparisons. This is where it's easiest to see that young face financial challenges largely unknown and unpredicted by earlier generations. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I'm 22 and a fairly recent graduate.) Even if one doesn't accept that recent graduates are worse off per se, it's difficult not to feel that they don't have nearly as many financial certainties as their predecessors.

Where it fails is the solutions. Kamenetz clearly isn't a historian or an economist; even more problematic is her apparent failure to understand that this can and should limit her ability to suggest fixes to the current situation. She clearly considers conservative economics a failure, but what she writes about them reveals that she hasn't studied them very hard, or at any rate not very deeply. It's possible that they are indeed in large part responsible for the current situation, but as her evaluation of them never rises above the superficial, it's difficult to know how correct she is. Similarly, it would have been nice if she'd anticipated some of the possible downsides to the largely socialistic solutions she suggests. Kamenetz is clearly intelligent, but she doesn't seem to understand how serious intellectual debate works.

Overall it's hard not to feel like she's out of her league when discussing these issues, and I can't help but think that her editor would have done better to assign her a coauthor. Then we might have had a book equal to its thesis.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is a liberal denunciation of the modern American society in general and of its educational system in particular. There are statements in this book one finds it hard not to agree with -- for example when it correctly points to the outrageous practices of banks collecting huge profits from channeling federal educational loans to students.

Declining opportunities for young people, degradation of their standard of living, increased costs of college education, while indeed occurring, are illustrated by a set of stunningly absurd examples.

"Stella" from Chapter 2 borrowed $5000 per semester when she only needed $1000 for tuition (but she qualified for a higher loan amount -- why not to have it all?) and spent all of it on moving out of Mom's home and then spent some more on vacations (paid via credit cards) eventually running her debt to $33,000. While Stella's problems were clearly self-inflicted, Kamenetz blames the society that does not prepare young people for life. Do we need a nanny-state then to remove any responsibility from young people in making sound decisions?

"Latoya" from Chapter 3, "had funding for college, from Pell Grants, and she had support from her mother, but they weren't enough to keep her in school." If you wonder why -- "she didn't show the same hunger as her contemporaries". A paragraph later Kamenez contradicts herself with the praise of Latoya's "school performance, ambition, and background". But the society failed her and so she had to go (horror!) to the Navy.

"Jerman" also from Chapter 3 was born to a family in good financial standing that owned multiple homes and wineries in California. Yet we can see how the society failed Jerman and his siblings. Jerman's brother had had five kids by five different girls.
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