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[Excerpt] In the popular media, economic experts will endlessly debate the dynamics and causes of the current downturn. They will parse the minutia of the data, with some claiming the worst is over while others argue it is yet to come. Sadly, most of these debates will likely have very little to do with the real economic challenges facing working families today.

The men and women of the American workforce have worked harder and smarter to make the United States a world-class economy. In particular, when considering the 2000s, the U.S. workforce has chalked up some of the most impressive productivity growth rates in decades. And the mantra among economists and policy makers is that, as grows productivity, so shall living standards improve.

Would it were so. The results highlighted in this volume regarding the income of middle-class families, the poverty of low-income families, and the historically off-the-charts measures of inequality tell a very different story. That is, they describe a different story. The story behind these unsettling trends—the chain of events and policy changes that brought them about—is more complex than the tale told by a few tables and graphs.


The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press.