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It's the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in - a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last 25 years, we have seen a disturbing "opportunity gap" emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or, at the least, much less true than it was. Robert Putnam - about whom The Economist said, "[H]is scholarship is wide-ranging, his intelligence luminous, his tone modest, his prose unpretentious and frequently funny" - offers a personal but also authoritative look at this new American crisis. Putnam begins with his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. By and large the vast majority of those students - "our kids" - went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have had harder lives amid diminishing prospects. Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, drawing on a formidable body of research done especially for this book.
Our Kids is a rare combination of individual testimony and rigorous evidence. Putnam provides a disturbing account of the American dream that should initiate a deep examination of the future of our country.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Catherine Spiller on 03-28-15
A more relatable, less rigorous, Coming Apart
This book is filled with fascinating nuggets of data, insights, and explanations for our world. I sometimes felt like the selection of anecdote was a little manipulative. Putnam admits that some examples were chosen that were particularly vivid to make the lesson clearer. When talking about the macro data though, Putnam seems fair, modest, creative, and insightful. The policy recommendations feature unsurprisingly less modest suggestions about the scope of our knowledge, but again he's open about this. An excellent read either in conjunction with Charles Murray's Coming Apart or for those who find lengthy data analysis a struggle to read.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By Laurie on 04-11-15
A sobering listen
I think this book sheds light on a problem that a lot of us try to ignore - the growing poor right around our own neighborhoods. I don't have children, but I am nonetheless amazed when someone glibly states "if you want to get ahead, you just need to work a little harder". This book explains just why that no longer really rings true. I found it to be very informative and thought provoking.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Amazon Customer on 05-22-16
Essential reading on both sides of The Pond.
What has already happened in the US and what is likely to happen in the UK
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Olly Buxton on 11-23-16
how, really, to make America great again.
Compulsory reading for those wondering what just happened in America. If the idea that mendacious racists have unexpectedly taken over the country seems unsatisfying to you then you may find Putnam's argument - that there are real demographic and socioeconomic drivers dislocating middle and working class America from the metropolitan elite and they're not the ones the liberal media think they are - pretty compelling. I certainly did.