Press Release: PINCHED: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It by Don Peck



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Tara Gilbride, The Crown Publishing Group








New book reveals the ways economic tumult and chronic joblessness have frayed our social fabric — how unemployment, foreclosure, and debt are changing families, sinking the Millennial generation, and creating a large, white male underclass  


“We would make wiser policy if every policymaker read this brilliant book.”

Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury

 “Outstanding…Don Peck puts together the pieces of today’s puzzle—the gender effects, the generational effects, the political ramifications of a slowing economy …”

James Fallows, author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square

 “An important, far-thinking consideration of the reverberations–
social, political, psychological–of the financial crash”

 — Publishers Weekly 

 ” He outlines a new, broader but more focused strategy that puts job creation and economic recovery at the center of the nation’s agenda.”

Richard Florida, author of The Great Reset and The Rise of the Creative Class

 “Policymakers on both sides of the aisle will ignore this book at their peril.”

Simon Johnson, Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management, and co-author of 13 Bankers


PINCHED: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What
We Can Do About It

By Don Peck

Crown, on sale August 9, 2011

In his new book PINCHED: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do about It (Crown, August 8, 2011) Atlantic journalist Don Peck explains how economic weakness is slowly narrowing the life opportunities for millions of Americans, and why the most pronounced effects of the recession are yet to come. According to Peck, every class and every generation will be affected, including newly minted college graduates, blue-collar men, affluent professionals, exurban families, elite financiers, inner-city youth, and middle-class retirees. He provides much needed historical perspective, explaining how society changed over the course of other long, deep downturns–and what finally ended them. “In truth, societies never simply ‘recover’ from downturns this severe,” says Peck. “They emerge from them different than they were before–stronger in some ways, weaker in others, and in many respects simply transformed.”

 Through vivid reporting and lucid argument, Peck helps us make sense of how our society has changed and recommends specific steps on how to mitigate the most difficult problems the recession had caused, many of which we’ve only begun to wrestle with. He extrapolates the consequences and possible responses by looking at the panic of the 1890s, the Great Depression, and the oil-shock recessions of the 1970s. What does he find? The middle class is shrinking faster, wealth is becoming more concentrated, twentysomethings are sinking, and working-class families and communities are changing in unsavory ways. Long bouts of unemployment provoke long-lasting changes in behavior and mental health. When jobs are scarce, communities, and even whole generations can be permanently scarred. Even the nature of marriage is changing as a result of hard times. Research shows that joblessness and economic distress prevent new marriages, corrode existing ones and make divorce much more likely down the road. Calls to the National Domestic Violence hotline rose by almost 20% from 2007 to 2010. In addition, the Great Recession has delayed the ability of young adults to reach the milestones that society has always associated with full adulthood and that many of them want to accept.

Arguably the most important economic trend in the United States over the past couple of generations, Peck explains, has been the slow hollowing of the middle class. Much of the nonprofessional middle class is slowly coming to resemble the poor in its habits and values; the rich are simply floating away from everyone else, not just financially but emotionally too. Both developments are profoundly unhealthy.  He also uncovers the following:

Changing gender roles: Three out of every four pink slips delivered during the recession were delivered to men. Among those who’ve kept their jobs, men have reported more pay cuts than women as well. Overwhelmingly, women have moved up from the dwindling middle. Men have been much more prone to move down, if not out. Women are fast becoming essential breadwinners and authority figures in many working class families.

Unprecented geographic sorting: A mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions is underway.  America’s wealthiest and most dynamic cities are already recovering from the recessions; meanwhile, many former meccas of the middle class–Las Vegas, Pheonix, Tampa–have been exposed as mirages. At the end of 2010 the unemployment rate was 14.9% in Las Vegas and 6.5% in Minneapolis, for example.

Sinking Millennials: A whole generation of young adults is likely to see its life chances permanently diminished by this recession; people who begin their careers during downturns start out behind and never catch up. Many of today’s young adults seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Told throughout their childhood that they’re special, and destined for great things, they are now struggling with a different reality.

In PINCHED, Peck also lays out his thoughts for restoring America’s social and economic health. He urges smarter, more creative, and more decisive government actions. He explains why history shows that measures to cut the deficit can be highly counterproductive, and can set off a chain reaction of reduced demand, lower growth, job cuts and further reductions in the tax base. He also urges government to focus on improving Americans mobility and to invest in infrastructure and innovation. America’s capacity for adaptation and reinvention, he notes, is perhaps the country’s best historic trait. This downturn will have an irrevocable, transformative impact on American life and culture. Peck’s powerful examination and analysis is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand and improve America’s future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  DON PECK is a features editor at the The Atlantic, where he has worked for seven years. The book was inspired by his 2010 cover story in the magazine which generated 900,000 pages views and was printed out by some 100,000 people. The September issue of The Atlantic will feature an excerpt of the book, “Can the Middle Class Be Saved?,” available online and to home subscribers on August 9 and on newsstands on August 16. Before he became a journalist, Peck was a principal at the Advisory Board Company, a large strategic research firm and management consultancy. He has a BA in government, modified with economics, from Dartmouth College and a Masters of Public Affairs with a focus on international development from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He has been interviewed in the national media, including on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, PRI’s Marketplace, PBS-TV, CNN-TV and C-span. He lives with his wife, Meghan, in Washington, DC.


Also available as an eBook

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By Don Peck * August 9, 2011

Crown * $22.00 Hardcover * ISBN: 978-0-307-88652-1

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The Crown Publishing Group