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(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents


(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class, by Nan Mooney. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.

In decades past, middle-class, educated Americans could support their families, afford college for their kids, own homes and avoid bankruptcy a lot easier than they can today. Journalist Nan Mooney, herself an avowed member of the “professional middle class” of the title, explores myriad developments in our government, society and economy over the past few years to illustrate why and how it became so impossible to achieve a reasonably good life in the U.S. working at public service, educational, artistic and other humanistic professions. Utilizing over a hundred interviews with people with a variety of backgrounds, the author illustrates how the decline in social programs, increase in fixed costs, changes in labor practices and policies, and reliance on student loans to pay for skyrocketing tuition, has made it increasingly difficult for educated professionals to sustain a middle-class lifestyle.

The facts are bleak, but Mooney, in her closing chapters, offers ideas on how this situation may begin to be rectified. A sense of both personal and social responsibility combined with the belief that we can actively effect change and improvement, is key.

I felt both depressed and vindicated by the time I finished this book—learning some of the reasons for both individual and collective struggle was illuminating.

Alison M.

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