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Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead Hardcover – January 17, 2006


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Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead + Economic Apartheid In America: A Primer on Economic Inequality & Insecurity, Revised and Updated Edition
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385515057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385515054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's hard to believe: "Today's college grads are making less than the college grads of thirty years ago." In fact, men aged 25 to 34 with bachelor's degrees are making just $6,000 more than those with high school diplomas did in 1972. This is just one of the many shocking statistics uncovered by Draut, a think-tank adviser and media pundit, in this incisive and revealing look at why today's young adults find financial independence so difficult. With catchy terms such as "debt-for-diploma" and "paycheck paralysis," Draut shows why this age group's ability to accomplish the traditional adult markers of school, career and family is stagnating. Her presentation features the one-two punch of well-sourced data and a series of stories from a diverse group of interview subjects to prove her thesis that depressed wages, inflated educational costs, soaring credit card debt and skyrocketing health and child-care expenses present nearly insurmountable obstacles to young adults' success. While Draut's conclusions take conservative politicians to task, they are hardly polemical, and her analysis and solutions are refreshingly free of glib how-to advice. Her book should be a jarring wake-up call to both the generation affected most by the current economic reality and the policy makers facing the consequences for decades to come. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Strapped

Strapped tells a story that is compelling, frightening, and ultimately liberating. By giving a clear analysis of what has gone wrong, Draut points the way to how to make it better. This is a must-read for anyone who is young—or anyone who cares about anyone who is young.”
—Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, Harvard University, co-author of The Two-Income Trap

“Tamara Draut’s meticulously researched book explains why the transition to adulthood has become almost impossibly difficult for the children of low- and middle-income families. Her highly readable account of bad policy choices and changing market forces will persuade you that this problem demands our immediate attention.”
—Robert Frank, Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management, Cornell University, author of Luxury Fever

“It’s no time to be 21, and we have Tamara Draut to thank for describing to us, in precise detail, the forces arrayed against young people—and what can be done to alleviate the situation.”
– Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas?


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Customer Reviews

I started to read this book and found it frustrating.
Aaron Kidd
(I had planned on sending copies to many people) So I would suggest to anyone thinking about getting this book, wait until one comes out that is written better.
S. Sullivan
Young people need to be taught the skills to understand how to behave like an adult before they even get to college, not after the fact.
A. Riboni

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Smith on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a working student. I can tell you that outreach to underrepresented students is not behind the double digit percentage increases in tuition. Try static supply and increasing demand. Try corruption.

Draut's thesis is simple: making a living and becoming an "adult" according to certain criteria (education, house, baby) is drastically more expensive now than it was several decades ago. Since the 70s, American productivity has skyrocketed and wages have flatlined or regressed. Let's face it, an undergraduate degree is the modern day equivalent of what the high school diploma used to be.

Instead of questioning why this might be the case (uh, health insurance anyone?), some folks want to put the blame squarely on the (not just young) people who get hit with these costs--"the me generation," "entitlement," and the mother of all conservative memes, "personal responsibility." Hey, individual choice and systemic change AREN'T the same thing.

Draut doesn't argue that people should spend beyond their means, or not try to pinch pennies to survive. Instead, she looks at the damage caused by "free market fundamentalism": disintegrating social cohesion, rigidifying class mobility, a health care catastrophe, the casualization of the workforce ("contingent workers make up 33% of the workforce") etc. "Today," she writes writes, "In the midst of historic income inequality, our nation's primary engine of social mobility, education, is broken."

"Back in 1972, the typical male high school graduate earned just $42,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars," she writes elsewhere, "Three decades later, male high school graduates in this age group [25-34] are earning just over $29,000.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Strapped deserves 3 stars for good writing and thorough research. Even if you disagree with the author's interpretation of statistics, you have enough information to draw your own conclusions.

As a former college professor (currently a career/business consultant) who attended undergraduate school in the 1960s, I agree with readers who question the responsibility of these students. As a professor, I found that students at non-elite universities tend to bring expectations that were foreign to their Boomer predecessors. For example, I know a college student whose parents sacrificed to send him to a private college. He returned home several times a year -- mostly flying to avoid a long drive or bus ride. My classmates would go home for Christmas - period.

In general, college students actually seem to receive less value for their education, unless they attend an elite Ivy-level university. One study found they watch television more than they study.

And many have adopted elements of lifestyles that used to be open only to the very wealthy. When I was in college, I don't remember getting manicures, let alone pedicures, waxing and highlights. Cable television? Our dorm had one television for several hundred young women. Cell phones? One phone on each floor, serving 20-30 students. Now my friends call their college-age children two or three times a day.

I'd also take a look at rising college costs. Professors no longer work for slave wages (unless they're part-timers - another story) and in fact business school and law professors do quite well. Administrators earn considerably more -- but that's another story.

Maintenance costs have risen for everyone.
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43 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Strapped Grad on April 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a 20-something who has worked hard for a good credit rating by carefully managing my spending and student loans, I found the author's indulgence of my peers a little annoying. I haven't gone to important weddings or jetted around the world unless I had the money saved up first. As someone strapped and in grad school in another state, I also don't fly anywhere to visit family unless they're paying my way.

I do, however, know many talented, hard-working, and sharp people in their 20s and 30s who just can't seem to get ahead. Especially because our career choices are often limited to 5 flavors of highly specialized underemployment at poor wages. So most just flit between careers trying to find a hot opportunity or the yoke of underemployment that fits best. The question i find most compelling is why have incomes shown negative real growth? Market forces, of course. Call me crazy, but it seems that a lot of good jobs are filled with aging boomers, whose tenure and salaries have grown large enough to support an adult kid - a kid likely working for some other highly paid boomer!

I hate to say "blame the old," since my parents are both retired pre-Boomers. But it sure is looking like a lot of the wealth and social spending in the US (including tax schmemes that redistribute wealth upwards by strategic cutting of taxes) is going to Generation Me. While they form the basis of the "ownership society," sending their cash abroad to find wealth in hot foriegn markets, the younger of us struggle with the consequences of a highly competitive and globalized economy where govt intervention works against us.
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