Ep. 5 – Robert Putnam – The American Dream in Crisis: USA Becoming Two Class Society, Rich and Poor

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Presidential candidates encounter furious voters, of all races, who have watched their economic conditions collapse and the prospects for their children to have a better future grow worse. Harvard Professor Robert Putnam‘s acclaimed book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” predicts it will get worse before it gets better.

Putnam says, “The backdrop to the problem facing poor families, poor schools and poor communities is the stagnant economy that has seen virtually no real growth in decades for the less educated part of our population.” Putnam’s book, which hit the New York Times Bestseller list, explains how the four decade old shift that has devastated the middle class threatens the future of the United States. He weaves the troubling trends through the stories of families, rich and poor, across the USA. As Putnam explains in this Talkenomics interview, children born into poor families today would have had far better chances of moving out of poverty had they been born prior to 1970.

Presidential candidates talk about income inequality but Putnam raises the problems of inequality of opportunity that can trap poor families in a never ending quagmire of poverty. “Less discussed than the growing gaps between affluent and impoverished Americans, but equally insidious, is the fact that the ballooning economic gap has been accompanied by growing de facto segregation of Americans along class lines” he said. Putnam says it is not too late to help our kids and also help the United States, but warns if nothing is done the anger presidential candidates find on the campaign trail could grow into far greater threats to the republic.