Financial Crisis in American Households
The Basic Expenses That Bankrupt the Middle Class
by Joseph Nathan Cohen
April 2017, 211pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3221-5
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3222-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Despite high costs, U.S. private education is middling by many metrics of international higher education performance.

More than one-third of Americans could not sustain a basic livelihood without government assistance. Almost 60 percent of seniors are dependent on the government. Why is this? This book examines how the U.S. economy's failure to deliver high-quality, universally accessible basic necessities is creating acute financial insecurity among the American middle class.

Over the past 30 years, America’s middle class has grown more financially insecure. How much of this pressing problem is due to Americans’ failure to restrain their spending versus their upwards spiraling—and increasingly necessary—expenditures on health care, education, and housing? And how can Americans choose between financial security and paying for essentials on a day-to-day basis? This book answers these tough questions and many more in its evaluation of a complex and contentious issue: how basic expenses of life in the 21st century are bankrupting American families.

The book begins with a snapshot of U.S. household finances, an assessment of financial insecurity’s prevalence across the nation, and a description of how American households have declined into their present precarious economic situation over the last three decades. The author’s analysis then looks at how European countries pursue policies that make these essentials highly accessible and postulates that the socialization of these essentials in other countries has helped to solidify household finances and maintain living standards. The work uniquely focuses on the plight of the middle class in America to provide relevant, useful information to help as many readers as possible to better understand and improve their own financial situations.


  • Provides data-intensive, non-partisan analysis that focuses on presenting facts underlying U.S. households' financial precariousness, allowing readers to make their own judgments and reach their own conclusions
  • Presents findings that directly contradict the diagnoses given by other sources that stress materialism, consumer spending, and the resulting private debt as the sources of the financial crises in American households
  • Offers international comparisons that reveal that the United States actually has a very generous social welfare system, but one that is overwhelmingly dedicated to seniors and provides little support for the working-age population and children
Joseph Nathan Cohen, PhD, is assistant professor of sociology at the City University of New York, Queens College. He received his doctorate in sociology from Princeton University in 2007. He is the coauthor of Global Capitalism: A Sociological Perspective.


"Those interested in economics will appreciate this well-reasoned look at the financial issues of many U.S. households."—Library Journal, October 1, 2017

"This is a very important book. Using data broadly and deeply, Cohen provides an outstanding snapshot of the living conditions of Americans. The squeeze on incomes and the rising costs of access to health and education have made Americans effectively poorer over the past 30 years. If you’re wondering where all the rage is coming from, this book will tell you. This is a book that should be read by every person in Congress."—Miguel Angel Centeno, Musgrave Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

"In this much-needed and timely book, Joseph Nathan Cohen reveals the reality of American life, a place where obtaining necessities like healthcare, housing, and a good education puts our finances in peril. Yet instead of buttressing our social safety net, we’ve pulled back, castigating individuals for overspending when, in many cases, it’s forces beyond their control that are leading to their money woes. If you want to understand why so many people feel no one in a position of power is listening to them or offering them help, reading Financial Crisis in American Households is a necessity."—Helaine Olen, "The Bills," Slate
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