Dream Hoarders

Dream Hoarders

How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is A Problem, and What to Do About It

eBook - 2017
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"America is becoming a class-based society. It is now conventional wisdom 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 up 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"--
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution Press, 2017
Edition: 1st Edition
ISBN: 9780815729136
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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May 10, 2018

It is no “Coming Apart” by a wide margin.

This book is mediocre at best. Charles Murray wrote a book, “Coming Apart”, on the same subject back in 2012, and it was much more informative with more analysis, data, and graphs that supported his arguments in contrasting the top 20% vs. the bottom 30%. By comparison, Reeves lacks focus as he compares the top 20% to everyone else. But, the “everyone else” categorization changes with each different issue. As a result, he is inaccurate.

Reeves data often contradicts his arguments. In Figure 4.1 (pg. 61), he shows a graph that supposedly conveys the permanence of income quintile from one generation to the next. Yet, it shows that over 60% of individuals with parents in the top income quintile will fall at least one quintile of more. And, nearly 70% of individuals with parents in the bottom income quintile will rise by one quintile or more. Figure 4.2 repeats the same analysis for wealth. Now, about 55% of individuals with parents in the top quintile of will fall by one quintile or more. And, 65% of the individuals with parents in the lowest quintile will rise by one quintile or more. If all mentioned percentages were 80%, you would have a perfectly generationally mobile society. Thus, the US still seems very generationally mobile on each reviewed dimension. And, this information contradicts his hoarding theory.

Reeves states that property tax deduction benefits mainly the top quintile (Figure 6-1). By contrast, it does not benefit the bottom 40%. But, this is tautological. The top quintile pays the majority of property tax. Meanwhile, the bottom 40% typically does not pay any property tax.

One of his major dream hoarding argument is that the top quintile hoards all good internship opportunities for their kids because only they can afford unpaid internships. Within Figure 6.3, he shows the factors that employers value the most in college undergrads. Number 1 is internships. However, almost tied as a strong number 2 is employment during college. And, that is where students outside the top quintile can shine and impress employers just the same. On the same graph, it indicated that employers do not value much extracurricular activities and college reputation, two areas where the top quintile would have much “hoarding” advantages; yet, these advantages really do not matter much.

College admission is another hoarding case. He advances that the top quintile hoards the college admission game by applying using Early Admission. He states that represents a 100 points advantage on the SAT. He also indicates that Legacy students at top universities benefit from an additional 150 points on the SAT. However, he does not mention that certain minorities benefit from over 300 points on the SAT. While, other minorities are penalized by having to score 150 points higher on the SAT to get in the same colleges. These policies are a tacit form of affirmative action whereby schools make humongous efforts to get to a politically correct desired ethnic mix regardless of actual academic performance. Affirmative action-like policies affect far more college applicants than the hoarding he mentions.

When it comes to residential zoning, he accuses everyone who lives in a good neighborhood in San Francisco, San Jose, and New York to be hoarding privileges because their areas are not crowded with low-income high rise apartments. But, the situation is the same in other world-class cities such as London, Paris, Rio, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Singapore among many others. If any of those cities would force their expensive neighborhoods to house the bottom income quintile, those cities would economically shrivel.

PimaLib_NormS Dec 27, 2017

Author, Brookings Institute fellow, and new American citizen, Richard Reeves, has written a thought-provoking book entitled “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It”. In addition to having one of the longest titles of the year, this book examines the difficult societal problem of class in a supposedly classless society. Most Americans believe that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become successful, that we live in a meritocracy, that all it takes to be a success is hard work and the drive to be all you can be. Yeah, well, maybe that’s true. But what if you aren’t in the upper and upper middle classes, and you have to compete with those that are? Wouldn’t, for example, those that have gone to good, well-funded schools, with the best teachers, have a sizable advantage? So then, wouldn’t that would make your lower class bootstraps shorter and more difficult to reach? And, while it isn’t easy to say to those upper middle class parents that they should not do all they possibly can for their children, Reeves posits that instead of hoarding those advantages for themselves, and widening the gap between those that have and those that don’t, our society would be closer to a real meritocracy, and to the ideal of a classless society, if opportunities to prepare oneself for success were shared more equitably with all socio-economic groups. Can anyone imagine that our divided society would ever come together on this subject? C’mon . . . it ain’t happenin’. But with “Dream Hoarders”, Reeves gives us plenty to ponder.

Sep 29, 2017

Short and easy to read with compelling diagrams. This is an original theme that has received a lot of press coverage and will hopefully spawn more investigative books. The author leaves lots of room for others to expand on how the hoarding of resources plays out in the lives of ordinary citizens. I found his "solutions" - what needs to happen to turn the situation around - to be entirely inadequate.

PimaLib_StephanieM Sep 11, 2017

I am on board with Reeves' case for a very real class system in the United States. It is hard to argue with any of the points he is making as they are well-researched and very clearly articulated. The finger in this book is pointing at me and I knew that going in. Despite the zinger of a title, Reeves isn't asking the "hoarders" to engage in self-flagellation but rather to honestly reconcile their values with the economic realities of their class. Reeves' portrait of the American upper-middle class, while convincing and backed up with loads of (very digestible) data, leans too heavily on the upper-middle class of the East Coast. His arguments apply to anyone in this income range but the anecdotes used to flesh out the numbers didn't portray this phenomenon beyond the East Coast prep school set stereotype. There is dream hoarding happening across the U.S. but Reeves didn't quite capture how it plays out regionally.

Aug 17, 2017

Full of clear diagrams, supporting evidence, and compelling citations, this book is logical and gentle in tone. Reeves has made this medicine as easy as possible for us to take by writing a book that is only 156 pages long and not accusatory in tone. Upper middle class Americans can be part of the solution to making our society fair.


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