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What the financial diaries of working-class families reveal about economic stresses, why they happen, and what policies might reduce them
Deep within the American Dream lies the belief that hard work and steady saving will ensure a comfortable retirement and a better life for one's children. But in a nation experiencing unprecedented prosperity, even for many families who seem to be doing everything right, this ideal is still out of reach.
In The Financial Diaries, Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider draw on the groundbreaking U.S. Financial Diaries, which follow the lives of 235 low- and middle-income families as they navigate through a year. Through the Diaries, Morduch and Schneider challenge popular assumptions about how Americans earn, spend, borrow, and save―and they identify the true causes of distress and inequality for many working Americans.
We meet real people, ranging from a casino dealer to a street vendor to a tax preparer, who open up their lives and illustrate a world of financial uncertainty in which even limited financial success requires imaginative―and often costly―coping strategies. Morduch and Schneider detail what families are doing to help themselves and describe new policies and technologies that will improve stability for those who need it most.
Combining hard facts with personal stories, The Financial Diaries presents an unparalleled inside look at the economic stresses of today's families and offers powerful, fresh ideas for solving them.
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"The Financial Diaries succeeds in that rarest of goals: making you think and care at the same time. This is an invaluable look at the profound economic uncertainties of our era."--Jacob S. Hacker, author of The Great Risk Shift
"The Financial Diaries provides a voice for the millions of Americans struggling to take control of their financial lives. Morduch and Schneider's vivid assessment of the causes and consequences of financial instability for the hard-working families in neighborhoods across the nation challenges all of us to do our part to address this widespread problem."--Dan Schulman, President and CEO, PayPal
"Morduch and Schneider significantly advance our understanding of financial insecurity and intermittent poverty by showing how these stem from monthly and annual volatility in both income and spending--and not just low incomes. Employers, financial institutions, and policymakers should read this book and help American families better save, borrow, spend, and plan for their financial future."--Sarah Rosen Wartell, President, Urban Institute
"This powerful book should change the way we think about economic opportunity in America. Two of the nation's leading experts on consumer finance show how widespread and destructive economic instability has become, reaching from factory and fast-food workers into the ranks of the middle class. Rising costs and unsteady income not only strain families’ efforts to meet basic needs--and generate a heavy reliance on self-defeating coping strategies--but challenge their faith in the American Dream. This book is an urgent wake-up call, and a roadmap for equally urgent reform."--Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation
"The Financial Diaries is an invaluable framework to understand why working-class families feel uneasy with their financial situations. It makes an important case for the distinction between illiquidity and insolvency, and why policy solutions for each may not be the same."--Elisabeth Jacobs, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
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