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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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Initial post: Jun 27, 2012 6:09:33 AM PDT
teaparties86 says:
I graduated with a bs in physics (one class short of a math major) in 2008, and from what I've seen unless your future employer can see exactly where you fit in they're not going to hire you. What major that is not exportable, with entry level jobs, without laid-off more experienced workers willing to take a pay cut, which will have 100% employment in four years are you referring to?
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