The Great Risk Shift

THE GREAT RISK SHIFT….As regular readers know, rising income inequality in America is a common topic on this blog. On a per-person basis, our economy has nearly doubled over the past 30 years, but that growth has been wildly uneven. Instead of everyone seeing their incomes double, the poor and the middle class have seen almost no growth, while the rich and the super-rich have seen their incomes skyrocket.

But just as bad ? or possibly even worse ? is the fact that not only are middle-class incomes stagnant, but they’re far more unstable than in the past. This is the theme of The Great Risk Shift, a new book by Jacob Hacker. Here’s a summary from the book’s introduction:

We all know something about rising inequality in the United States….Yet we have heard much less about rising insecurity, the growing risk of slipping from the economic ladder itself.

….Consider some alarming facts. Personal bankruptcies has gone from a rare occurence to a routine one….Since the early 1970s, the mortgage foreclosure rate has increased fivefold….Meanwhile, the number of Americans who lack health insurance has increased with little interruption over the last twenty-five years.

….Perhaps most alarming of all, American family incomes are now on a frightening roller coaster, rising and falling much more sharply from year to year than they did thirty years ago….And this rising insecurity does not come with any obvious silver liings. The chance that families will see their income plummet has risen. The chance that they experience long-term movement up the income ladder has not.

You may remember Jacob from his guest blogging last year with Paul Pierson after the publication of their book Off Center, an exploration of how the activist base of the Republican Party has managed to pull the GOP so far away from the center of American politics without suffering at the polls. This week Jacob is back to talk about his new book, and he’ll be guest blogging here through Friday.

I’ll be doing my usual blogging as well, and piping up with questions for Jacob along the way. And he’ll be reading comments, so feel free to chime in with questions of your own. It should be an interesting week.

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