April 21st 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

CANBERRA OBSERVED Malcolm at 30 (polls): the cloud on Turnbull's horizon

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell firmly denies sex abuse allegations

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Sydney Archdiocese aims to eliminate slavery in supply chain

RURAL DEVELOPMENT Irrigation along Fitzroy River proposed and opposed

LIFE ISSUES Abortion Rethink Summit: the case for care

VERBATIM WA food, drink producers face shortage of carbon dioxide

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY Land costs: economist Henry George's solution

ELECTRICITY Will Turnbull lose three out of three?

ECONOMICS Trade wars: tariffs unlikely to be fired in anger

SEX AND TEENS How about support for the abstaining majority?

VISUAL ARTS Layers of meaning in Botticelli's La Primavera and The Birth of Venus

MUSIC Is it good?: Or, do we just like the sound it makes?

CINEMA The Death of Stalin: Black comedy of a dark time

BOOK REVIEW Cool head on topic that generates heat

BOOK REVIEW Life's not so bad: from the outside

POETRY

LETTERS

OPINION What a republic would really mean for Australia

Books promotion page

LABOR'S LOVE LOST:
The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America

Andrew J. Cherlin

$69.95


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(New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2014)
Paperback: 258 pages
ISBN: 9780871540300
Price: AUD$69.95

 

Book description

Two generations ago, young men and women with only a high-school degree would have entered the plentiful industrial occupations which then sustained the middle-class ideal of a male-breadwinner family. Such jobs have all but vanished over the past 40 years, and in their absence ever-growing numbers of young adults now hold precarious, low-paid jobs with few fringe benefits. 

Facing such insecure economic prospects, less-educated young adults are increasingly forgoing marriage and are having children within unstable cohabiting relationships. This has created a large marriage gap between them and their more affluent, college-educated peers. 

In Labor’s Love Lost, noted sociologist Andrew Cherlin offers a new historical assessment of the rise and fall of working-class families in America, demonstrating how momentous social and economic transformations have contributed to the collapse of this once-stable social class and what this seismic cultural shift means for the nation’s future.

Drawing from more than 100 years of census data, Cherlin documents how today’s marriage gap mirrors that of the Gilded Age of the late-19th century, a time of high inequality much like our own. Cherlin demonstrates that the widespread prosperity of working-class families in the mid-20th century, when both income inequality and the marriage gap were low, is the true outlier in the history of the American family. In fact, changes in the economy, culture, and family formation in recent decades have been so great that Cherlin suggests that the working-class family pattern has largely disappeared.

Labor’s Love Lost shows that the primary problem of the fall of the working-class family from its mid-20th century peak is not that the male-breadwinner family has declined, but that nothing stable has replaced it. 

The breakdown of a stable family structure has serious consequences for low-income families, particularly for children, many of whom under-perform in school, thereby reducing their future employment prospects and perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of economic disadvantage. 

To address this disparity, Cherlin recommends policies to foster educational opportunities for children and adolescents from disadvantaged families. He also stresses the need for labour market interventions, such as subsidising low wages through tax credits and raising the minimum wage.

Labor’s Love Lost provides a compelling analysis of the historical dynamics and ramifications of the growing number of young adults disconnected from steady, decent-paying jobs and from marriage. Cherlin’s investigation of today’s “would-be working class” shines a much-needed spotlight on the struggling middle of our society in today’s new Gilded Age.

 

About the author

Andrew J. Cherlin is the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University.


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