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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look At Why Young Workers Worldwide Are Stranded In Parents' Homes
"The Accordion Family" is an extremely interesting book on why millions of adults under the age of 35 are still living at home with their parents in many first world democracies.

In a readable and well-organized book, author Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, presents interviews with families from the U.S., Italy, Spain, Japan, Denmark...
Published on December 22, 2011 by Reader from Washington, DC

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3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of profiles without any answers
The author profiles many families in Italy, Japan, Denmark, the U.S. and a couple of other countries who have extended families due to the children returning to or remaining in the parent's home. She discusses things like autonomy, privacy, chores etc. Each family story includes comments from family members about how the situation is working for them. There is a lot of...
Published 16 months ago by Kathy Edens


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look At Why Young Workers Worldwide Are Stranded In Parents' Homes, December 22, 2011
This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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"The Accordion Family" is an extremely interesting book on why millions of adults under the age of 35 are still living at home with their parents in many first world democracies.

In a readable and well-organized book, author Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, presents interviews with families from the U.S., Italy, Spain, Japan, Denmark and other first world democracies, trying to determine why thousands of young adults are unable to find homes and start families of their own.

The causes aren't difficult to find -- Newman offers easy to understand tables and graphs in addition to the interviews, showing that economic globalization -- the export of jobs from first world countries to developing countries -- has left many economies bereft of starter jobs for people between the ages of 16 to 35 trying to enter the job market.

Faced with a shortage of jobs at all levels, high educational expenses, skyrocketing rents and home prices, and increasingly competitive workplaces where master's degrees and Ph.D. degrees are required instead of bachelor's degrees and high school graduation diplomas, younger workers are often forced to live at home, subsisting on part-time or contract jobs or struggling through yet another college program.

Newman looks at how each culture deals with this phenomenon -- Scandinavian countries have worked against it, by providing young adults with housing, college loans and other assistance in leaving their parents' residences. But both the young adults and parents she interviewed complain of a lack of family closeness.

In the United States, some parents are happy to have closer relationships with adult children, but allow them to stay at home only as long as they are working on a career goal that will eventually provide them with an independent home and life.

Other countries, such as Japan, have panicked, and blame parents for failing to raise independent young people, ignoring the economic factors pushing young people back into their parents' homes.

I am enjoying reading this, and believe that college classrooms of all types and interested general readers will like this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing trend with far-reaching social and economic implications., March 3, 2012
This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
Did you know that in Italy today a whopping 37% of 30 year old men have never lived away from home? Have you heard that a growing number of other European nations like Spain and Portugal are also confronting a dramatic rise in the number of "just plain idle" young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 that some refer to as NEETS or "not in education, employment or training"? Were you aware that the very same problem is becoming increasingly acute in Japan and have you noticed that this worrisome trend is becoming much more prominent right here in the United States? Why is it that increasing numbers of young adults all over the developed world are choosing to stay at home with mom and dad after graduation rather than striking out on their own? Surely, skyrocketing housing costs are partly to blame. But is there more to it? Katherine S. Newman is an esteemed sociologist and author who has made her life's work the study of middle-class economic instability and urban poverty. Her latest book is bound to unsettle you just a bit. Professor Newman posits the notion that the root cause of the myriad problems confronting the generation she refers to as the "Millennials" is economic globalization. Also known as "Generation Y", these young people are waking up to the painful reality that the economic activity and employment opportunities once available in the advanced economies they grew up in have been inexorably shifting to Second and Third World nations with dramatically lower labor costs. In "The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition" Newman synthesizes the findings from the more than 300 candid interviews of parents and adult children in six different nations that were conducted for this book. I must tell you that what I learned about this emerging problem often surprised me, sometimes shocked me, occasionally infuriated me, but never bored me. I must agree with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (with whom I virtually never agree) that "The Accordion Family" is at once "brilliant and important".

In the Introduction to "The Accordion Family" Professor Newman succinctly states the crux of the matter as she sees it: "Globalization has insured that the economic conditions that underwrote the earlier, more traditional, road to adulthood no longer hold. International competition is greater than it once was, and many countries, fearful of losing markets for their goods and services, are responding by restructuring the labor market to cut the wage bill. Countries that regulated jobs to insure they were full-time, well-paid, and protected from layoffs, now permit part-time, poorly-paid jobs and let employers fire without restiction." Welcome to the real world folks! It seems that there is a price to pay for all those cheap consumer goods we in the developed world are demanding and our young adults are bearing the brunt of it. Now as a result of prevailing world economic conditions Newman finds that increasing numbers of young adults are unable to secure a well-paid position after college and simply do not have the wherewithal to move into their own place. Thus the trend to stay put. In 2009, some 34 million American parents shared a home with their adult children.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of "The Accordion Family" is the way that different cultures have responded to the very same problem. Not surprisingly, Japanese parents take a rather dim view of an adult child mired in these circumstances. According to Newman "They retain a strong normative sense of what is appropriate and what is deviant in the evolution from youth to adult. They simply do not like what they see." Japanese parents often blame themselves for having been much too lenient with their offspring. Meanwhile, halfway around the globe in nations like Spain and Italy the reaction appears to be exactly the opposite. In this part of the world extended families have long been the norm and the parents of young adults who are trying to find their way in the world will usually cut them considerably more slack and welcome them back home. Here in the United States most of the parents who were interviewed for the book seemed to be open to their adult children returning home to live for a period of time so long as they were making some sort of effort to find meaningful employment. Sounds altogether reasonable to me. Now if you are a young adult out looking for your first job in Denmark or Sweden the approach taken by your government is vastly different than in the other four countries I have just discussed. There is simply a lot more assistance available to you. Katherine Newman discusses the Scandanavian approach in considerable detail in "The Accordion Family".

Aside from the obvious adjustments that everyone in these "accordion" families must make when an adult child decides to remain at home there are also significant long-term economic implications surrounding such behavior. Delayed entry into the labor market, the declining importance of the institution of marriage and falling birth rates are going to continue to wreak havoc with governmental budgets throughout the developed world in the years to come. Furthermore, globalization is an ecomonic reality that everyone is simply going to have to learn how to deal with. Although I am sure that Katherine Newman is onto something I suspect that there might be a number of other factors at work here that the author has not fully explored including the "Millennials" rather unrealistic employment expectations as well as the rapid expansion in recent years of such exotic college majors as "area, ethnic, cultural and gender studies". One wonders how many of these students made ill-advised choices when selecting a major and if our institutions of higher learning are more interested in preparing these students for the real world or indoctrinating them with a radical political philosophy? But the bottom line is that I found "The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition" to be an exceptionally well written and thought-provoking book that is certainly well worth your time and consideration. See if you agree. Very highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking study on the failure of the next generation to launch, January 15, 2012
By 
Malvin (Frederick, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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"The Accordion Family" by Katherine Newman is a groundbreaking study on the rise of multigeneration households in the advanced industrial economies. Working with a staff of professional research assistants, Ms. Newman's ambitious project included interviews with hundreds of subjects in Denmark, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden and the United States in order to compare and contrast the accordion family through different cultural practices. Ms. Newman's findings are presented in a well-written, concise and insightful manner that should prove useful to sociologists, economists and general interest readers alike.

Ms. Newman discusses how policy matters a lot. In the Nordic countries, subsidized housing and education enables young people to leave the family home and establish their own households. In the Mediterranean countries, the young are often priced out of the housing market and can rarely find permanent employment, leaving them stuck in the family home well into adulthood. In the U.S., the situation is somewhere in between these two extremes, with middle class families generally allowing their children time to study and establish their careers while the working poor have no choice but to pool their earnings to survive. In Japan however, Ms. Newman finds an extreme case where a wrenching economic and demographic transformation has left little opportunity for the young, some of whom are staying in the family home into their forties.

Ms. Newman does an outstanding job understanding how people feel about all this. She finds that Danes and Swedes value their privacy and independence but recognize how it has cost them a measure of closeness among the generations. The Italians and the Spanish seem to unconditionally treasure their children although often tight living quarters can be awkward and inconvenient at times. Americans tend to be fine with extended families as long as their young people are working towards the goal of independence. Regrettably, many Japanese parents have turned their disapointment inward towards themselves and their children.

Implicit in Ms. Newman's analysis is a condemnation of globalization. As demonstrated through hundreds of pages of testimony, statistics and analysis, the corporate economy has failed to produce opportunity for nearly an entire generation of workers across the industrialized world. Unfortunately, competition between nations to attract investment has led to cut backs in government spending at a time when young people could use all the help they can get. Of course, as a sociologist Ms. Newman should not be expected to propose a solution to the specific problem of corporate power; but nonetheless she does quite sensibly suggest that we must vastly improve our education system if we want the next generation to become productive, empowered citizens.

I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Failure to launch in the Western World, April 29, 2012
This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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This book really drills down and examines the issues we are having in the Western World where our children do not grow up, get a career, house, and start their own family. Instead they enjoy the lifestyle that their parents have provided and really do not have the desire to go out in the world and fight their own way through a corporate career, take on a mortgage, marriage, and have children. This book shows through interviews that many grown children in their mid-twenties have no desire to take the same path as their parents. You combine this trepidation with the current battle of globalization devouring many jobs in the Western World along with big companies never ending pursuit of reducing expenses of labor with less full time opportunities and you have an economic storm changing the landscape. The author also shows how the cost of owning a home in some of the most popular metropolitan areas of the world has put home ownership out of the reach of many young people.

Parents desire for their children to have it better than they had it is difficult with the current flood of college graduates into the work force after the huge lay offs of millions of the same type of workers during the recession. Through interviews we see so many parents blaming themselves for coddling their children and the grown children just preferring to stay put because they are happy where they are. Great book for a deep look into the economic impact of the failure to launch generation along with the reasons why this is happening on such a large scale. I highly recommend if you are interested in this topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What awaits us, December 26, 2011
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This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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Since I am the parent of a college student, I was naturally engrossed by Katherine Newman's book about adult children moving back in with their boomer-aged parents after graduation. Newman interviews parents and young adults in the US, Japan, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia. The most interesting part of the book to me was the changing definition of adulthood that's going on in the developed world. In the past, marriage, parenthood and a solid job or profession defined a young person as an adult. Today, the definition is murkier and unmoored from earlier external markers. Adulthood is now almost a state of mind or an attitude marked by one's social network. Newman does a good job exploring the ambivialance both parents and grown children hold about this new state of generational dependence. My generation left home as early as possible, even if it meant living in a terrible apartment in a dangerous neighborhood. Our urban ecosystem needs young people to populate and gentrify marginalized city neighborhoods. But today's youth would rather live at home with all the creature comforts; it really is a major cultural shift. Newman also writes about working-class and poor families who are also accordion families, but are in a more desperate state of economic distress. Like many social scientists, she sometimes over-states the obvious, but this is a well-written and thought-provoking book. As we boomers become elderly, the health system may break down due to the sheer numbers of us. We may end up grateful to have our children dependent on us and close-by. They will be our caretakers of last resort.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and very timely, January 25, 2012
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G. Kellner (Westfield, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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I read this and was quite interested...for a while. I do not have children out of high school yet, so it wasn't as relevant to me as it would be to some. I did find it interesting that children moving back in (or never leaving) with their parents is happening all over the world, with different interpretations and reactions. I had thought it was an American phenomenon, but with the global ecomony and competition, that was a naive viewpoint. So the book opened my eyes. I did think it got a bit repetitive in the middle, but overall it was interesting and well written.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of profiles without any answers, March 11, 2013
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Kathy Edens (Springfield, IL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
The author profiles many families in Italy, Japan, Denmark, the U.S. and a couple of other countries who have extended families due to the children returning to or remaining in the parent's home. She discusses things like autonomy, privacy, chores etc. Each family story includes comments from family members about how the situation is working for them. There is a lot of discussion as to why kids aren't leaving home and the author is very careful not to judge or declare the kids to be slackers, loafers, unmotivated .....you name it. The author definitely believes that any living arrangement is fine. She definitely admires the Nordic countries policies regarding income redistribution. Unfortunately, she doesn't deal with the ultimate repercussion regarding this policy. When there are such generous benefits for housing subsidies, education,childbirth, and for simply existing, eventually won't everyone stop working? Who will be left to pay the high taxes she so obviously admires? If the government takes care of everyone from cradle to grave, eventually no one will be self sufficient. Where will the revenue come from? Similarly, if everyone continues to live with their parents, utilizing the parent's assets or living off the parents pension, how will the chidren cope when the parents die and the pension income stops or the assets are used up. And if children have not worked enough to build up their own retirement benefits, how will they be able to support the next generation, if indeed there even is one. The author also discusses the governments' welcome of immigrants, both legal and illegal. These people are looked upon as workers who will pay into the system of social security to pay the benefits of the citizens who are choosing not to work. What is not mentioned is that eventually the immigrants will be wanting 1) their share of the benefits and 2) a say in how the government and society is run. She does point out that particularly in the Nordic countries that tend to be very liberal, the conservtive Muslim immigrants will be wanting to change the society to suit their beliefs. What a web we weave!

This is an interesting book with lots of anecdotal evidence about the topic, however, the author presents no arguments about whether the trend is good or bad, and certainly doesn't present conclusions about what ultimately will become of society if the trend continues or how to stop it, or if indeed we should even try.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, February 27, 2013
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Nuria (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
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An interesting study for families with kids who can't seem to leave the nest and get started in life so quickly as their parents did. Reassuring.
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5.0 out of 5 stars How Far Can the Accordion Stretch?, January 8, 2012
This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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Why do so many adult children continue to live with their parents? Are the parents to blame for failing to prepare their kids to become adults? Are the kids to blame for being lazy? Is the economy to blame for being so lousy? Sociologist Katherine Newman's book The Accordion Family looks at the phenomenon from all angles.

Adult children living in their parents' homes is hardly a uniquely American development. Newman and her team interviewed hundreds of people in six countries: Japan, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States. The accordion or boomerang trend is increasingly common in the U.S, Japan, Spain, and Italy, but virtually nonexistent in Denmark and Sweden. Even though Scandinavia is hardly immune from the economic downturn, their governments still provide school leavers with assistance to be able to leave home. So when given a choice, almost everyone chooses to get their own apartment rather than stay in their parents' home.

Newman also finds that the Baby Boomer parents of the adult children at home are often perplexed and disappointed by the seeming lack of gumption on the part of the millennial generation. Those who grew up in the Sixties were willing to sacrifice creature comforts in exchange for independence and privacy. Their children value privacy and independence less than their parents did at their age, so are willing to wait for a good-paying job before they give up their familiar surroundings. This conflict between generational outlooks is even more severe in Japan and Spain than it is in the U.S.

It's no surprise to find that families who are forced to stay together due to financial reasons experience tension. But Newman finds a lot of families, especially in the U.S. and in Italy, where the parents are happy for the children to stay on into their twenties and thirties. It's a chance for children and parents to have a different, perhaps better, relationship with each other, as adults.

Newman waits to the last chapter to address what seemed to me the elephant in the room, which is that the same generation that is helping, if not supporting, their adult children, are also those who are helping, if not supporting, their own aging parents. Many of the Boomer generation express hope that their own children will be there for them when they're old and infirm, but we won't know for a few decades yet how that will play out.

As in her previous books, including No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City and Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low-Wage Labor Market (both about the working poor), Newman thoroughly examines a provocative subject in an academically rigorous way, but never forgets the real people involved.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Observation of Families Today!, December 30, 2011
This review is from: The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Hardcover)
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Katherine Newman's sociological book on the modern, contemporary family is going to be the subject of many discussions. In the United States economy, college graduates are returning home with huge debts from college loans. Jobs are few and far in between for even advanced graduates. In our economy, college graduates may wonder why they went to college in the first place only to get low paying jobs that they probably would have earned with a high school diploma.

Anyway, this book is great for those parents who wondered what went wrong. It's not their fault. They followed the dream by sending their children to college only to have them return home with debt and lack of opportunities for their future. It's no wonder that many adult children have returned home and postponing marriage and children plans. In the end, lower fertility rates and marriage rates are the results. Adult children living with their parents are living past into their thirties with few opportunities to move out and have their own homes and lives.

We don't think of this if we are parents or not like myself. I wonder if I had a child what the future might bring to them in a dismal, economic environment. My child or children would probably never be able to be independent. I have to say that the author does her research into other countries like Japan, Spain and Italy where adult children have remained with their parents.

Although I was fascinated by the nordic countries where adults leave home by the age of twenty years old. They might postpone getting married since it's not considered mandatory although the trend toward lavish weddings are in season. They also have the opportunities from their countries' support government system to obtain low income housing while they pursue their careers and become independent. Even though, some Nordic citizens might envy the Southern European countries for their close knit families. They should be the envied because their adults have entered independence much earlier than their southern counterparts. While it may be argued that the Southern countries have closer families, the Nordic countries seem to have their act together in providing for their citizens, young and old, and the future. It's envious if you have children and expect them to leave home by 20 years old in order to be independent.

In the end, I do admire the Nordic system of providing for their citizens including their young and old. They might send their children out earlier by 20 years old, provide education, and offer low income housing but they are doing a service. How many thirty years old have remained with their families in other countries without those opportunities including the United States? This book offers an analysis of what went wrong in countries like the United States, Japan, Italy, and Spain.

Although I found the book to be fascinating at times, I was a little bored and needed to work my way through it. Still, it's a great book for those of us who know that we aren't alone in this economic situation. Hopefully, things would get better.
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