Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard Reeves
Overall Rating: 4
Quick summary: The crux of this book is whether or not the American dream exists anymore. Can someone from the lower classes work their way up into the top 20% of incomes? The short answer is the American dream is under serious threat due to opportunity hoarding and that classes are more entrenched/hereditary than in the United Kingdom. While most contemporary movements focus on the top 1% of incomes, Reeves argues that it’s the upper middle class, defined here as the top 20% of earners, who are widening the gap between rich and poor.
This book is a challenge. It’s written for a liberal audience who is concerned about inequality and access. As Reeves openly admits, the very group of people he’s blaming for widening inequality are the people reading this book and, ultimately, the people who must advocate for a change in public policy. This means voting against their own interest and, to some extent, the interest of their children.
As a parent, I’ve had those tough conversations with my family. Economically we are not a part of this income bracket. But, my husband and I are educated and we have a mortgage, so we share a lot of the characteristics of the folks Reeves is talking about. Voting to raise your own taxes, close doors for your children and open up your neighborhood to “strangers” can be a tough pill to swallow. However, Reeves does a good job of convincing me that those were always unfair advantages anyway. The history of some of these policies is entrenched in racism and classism and, quite frankly, if my kids can’t success without those advantages, then they don’t deserve to make a lot of money.
In the end, I’m not sure Reeves has written a book that will become the cornerstone of a new movement. But I do think that if people who are interested in preserving the American dream, regardless of race and class, read this book, they’ll realize that Reeves is advocating for changes that would benefit poor, rural areas just as much as those typically targeted for help by Democrats or liberals.
Is it worth buying? (Kindle $9.60)
Unless you are a political activist or a political science major, you should just borrow this book from the library like I did.
Something else you might enjoy:
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam is actually quoted a few times in Dream Hoarders and if you care about education, then you should read this book too.