February 23rd 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION A step too small?

CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad

HUMOUR

MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity

LETTERS

Books promotion page

LABOR'S LOVE LOST:
The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America

Andrew J. Cherlin

$69.95


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(New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2014)
Paperback: 258 pages
ISBN: 9780871540300
Price: AUD$69.95

 

Book description

Two generations ago, young men and women with only a high-school degree would have entered the plentiful industrial occupations which then sustained the middle-class ideal of a male-breadwinner family. Such jobs have all but vanished over the past 40 years, and in their absence ever-growing numbers of young adults now hold precarious, low-paid jobs with few fringe benefits. 

Facing such insecure economic prospects, less-educated young adults are increasingly forgoing marriage and are having children within unstable cohabiting relationships. This has created a large marriage gap between them and their more affluent, college-educated peers. 

In Labor’s Love Lost, noted sociologist Andrew Cherlin offers a new historical assessment of the rise and fall of working-class families in America, demonstrating how momentous social and economic transformations have contributed to the collapse of this once-stable social class and what this seismic cultural shift means for the nation’s future.

Drawing from more than 100 years of census data, Cherlin documents how today’s marriage gap mirrors that of the Gilded Age of the late-19th century, a time of high inequality much like our own. Cherlin demonstrates that the widespread prosperity of working-class families in the mid-20th century, when both income inequality and the marriage gap were low, is the true outlier in the history of the American family. In fact, changes in the economy, culture, and family formation in recent decades have been so great that Cherlin suggests that the working-class family pattern has largely disappeared.

Labor’s Love Lost shows that the primary problem of the fall of the working-class family from its mid-20th century peak is not that the male-breadwinner family has declined, but that nothing stable has replaced it. 

The breakdown of a stable family structure has serious consequences for low-income families, particularly for children, many of whom under-perform in school, thereby reducing their future employment prospects and perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of economic disadvantage. 

To address this disparity, Cherlin recommends policies to foster educational opportunities for children and adolescents from disadvantaged families. He also stresses the need for labour market interventions, such as subsidising low wages through tax credits and raising the minimum wage.

Labor’s Love Lost provides a compelling analysis of the historical dynamics and ramifications of the growing number of young adults disconnected from steady, decent-paying jobs and from marriage. Cherlin’s investigation of today’s “would-be working class” shines a much-needed spotlight on the struggling middle of our society in today’s new Gilded Age.

 

About the author

Andrew J. Cherlin is the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University.


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