From Publishers Weekly
Young people who were raised to believe that a college education guarantees them a spot in the middle class are instead grappling with rising levels of debt, stagnant wages and ballooning basic expenses, argues Mooney (I Can't Believe She Did That) in this affecting but thinly researched jeremiad. Mooney suggests that college graduates who choose creative or service professions, such as journalism, teaching and social work, generally find themselves in low-paying jobs that, paradoxically, require high-priced educations and even graduate degrees. The struggle to pay off student loans sets off a spiral of financial insecurity, as these educated professionals face escalating costs for housing, health insurance and child care. It's an interesting observation, but Mooney often doesn't delve deeply enough to create a true thesis; she does not fully examine the expectations that motivate graduates' decisions to choose to teach-their desire for meaningful work even at the expense of upward mobility-or their reluctance to leave expensive urban areas. Where Mooney backs up her points with solid research, she makes persuasive arguments, but she occasionally offers unsubstantiated generalizations and relies on research culled from interviews rather than hard data. For a more comprehensive treatment of this sobering trend, readers should turn to Warren and Tyagi's The Two-Income Trap or Up to Our Eyeballs, by analysts from liberal think tank Demos.
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Journalist Mooney discusses the financial plight of the educated professional middle class that graduated from a four-year college 2 to 20 years ago and earns annually between $30,000 and $70,000 ($100,000 for couples). They have freely chosen careers in education, the arts, and public service, with relatively low-paying jobs requiring high-cost education. These professionals face increasing mortgage payments, student loans, credit-card debt, less help with health care, retirement, and child care, while the cost of living increases and wages are stagnant. The author candidly acknowledges the influence of our materialistic values and the spending craze throughout America. With information from more than 100 interviews of diverse families, the author’s recommendations include improved government-backed education, health- and child-care programs, along with tax reform and an emphasis on changing society’s attitude toward money. Some may not agree with Mooney, but she gives an excellent analysis of the problems facing the professional middle class. --Mary Whaley
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