Saturday, May 17, 2008

(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents

One of my favorite magazines touting the independent and alternative press, Utne Reader published an excerpt of Nan Mooney's new book in their May/June issue. Her book, entitled (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Classtakes an in-depth look at how "stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership are jeopardizing today's educated middle class."

The book is full of some sobering statistics, including how health care premiums for families have increased 87% since 2000, while wages remained stagnant. And how the level of household debt has increased from 33.2% of disposable income in 1949 to 131.8% in 2005 (mostly due to increases in home ownership, but also due to our ever-increasing list of "must haves"). Here is a short intro to the work (which I'm going to order from the library as soon as it's available!):

We're earning less and having to pay for more. Earnings for college graduates have remained stagnant for the past five years, but the costs of housing, health care, and education have all risen faster than inflation. The share of family income devoted to "fixed costs" like housing, child care, health insurance, and taxes has climed from 53 percent to 75 percent in the past two decades.

Though a college degree still earns you a bigger paycheck than a high shcool one, the price of a four-year education has increased exponentially. Between 2000 and 2004, tutions rose 32 percent at four-year public colleges and 21 percent at private colleges, requiring the majority of students to take out loans to fund their education. Once we hit the workforce, those rising numbers do an about-face. Real earning for those with four-year college degrees have flattened out since 2003, not even rising to keep pace with inflation.

It sounds like there's more reason than ever to turn to voluntary simplicity. If your hard work earns you less anyway, you'd better be sure than you are cutting your consumption. If you have time to devote to the cause, lobby your legislature for univerisal health care, and start a voluntary simplicity discussion group in your neighborhood!

1 comment:

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