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Publisher's Summary

America is becoming a class-based society.
It is now conventional to focus on the wealth of the top 1 percent - especially the top 0.01 percent - and how the ultra-rich are concentrating income and prosperity while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant. But the most important, consequential, and widening gap in American society is between the upper middle class and everyone else.
Reeves defines the upper middle class as those whose incomes are in the top 20 percent of American society. Income is not the only way to measure a society, but in a market economy it is crucial because access to money generally determines who gets the best quality education, housing, health care, and other necessary goods and services.
As Reeves shows, the growing separation between the upper middle class and everyone else can be seen in family structure, neighborhoods, attitudes, and lifestyle. Those at the top of the income ladder are becoming more effective at passing on their status to their children, reducing overall social mobility. The result is not just an economic divide but a fracturing of American society along class lines. Upper-middle-class children become upper-middle-class adults.
These trends matter because the separation and perpetuation of the upper middle class corrode prospects for more progressive approaches to policy. Various forms of "opportunity hoarding" among the upper-middle class make it harder for others to rise to the top rung. Examples include zoning laws and schooling, occupational licensing, college application procedures, and the allocation of internships. Upper-middle-class opportunity hoarding, Reeves argues, results in a less competitive economy as well as a less open society.
Inequality is inevitable and can even be good, within limits. But Reeves argues that society can take effective action to reduce opportunity hoarding and thus promote broader opportunity. This fascinating book shows how American society has become the very class-defined society that earlier Americans rebelled against - and what can be done to restore a more equitable society.
©2017 Richard V. Reeves (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By David Larson on 10-06-17

If You Have a Grad Degree You Need To Read This!

This book is amazing. I never even considered the 1001 different ways that the upper middle class is able to game the American system to ensure that as much opportunity and wealth as possible is passed along to their kids. What a wakeup call for me...

Read this book if you want to know how Nixon was a liberal, Bernie Sanders was (in some big ways) a conservative, and everything you think you know about inequality is wrong.

I love how much fascinating information the author is able to fit into such a short book. If you happen to be in the upper middle class like me, you might want to pour yourself a glass of scotch before you read this one. This book holds up a mirror to what you thought was your own perfectly ethical behavior...and oh brother are you not going to like what you see.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jessica Lucero on 01-11-18


I would qualify as the upper middle class based on my household income, though I certainly never thought about myself this way. Reading this book has helped me to see my own privilege a different light and has made me aware of the things I want to hang on to (certain tax breaks and seeing my property value keep rising) and how that self-interest keeps opportunities away from others who are less fortunate. I hope that more people read this book and that a new movement emerges-- one in which we in the upper middle class become more self-reflective and that this awareness leads to real efforts to find better ways to share opportunities, even if it means giving some things up.

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