Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times

Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times

Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times

Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times

Synopsis

Cut Adrift makes an important and original contribution to the national conversation about inequality and risk in American society. Set against the backdrop of rising economic insecurity and rolled-up safety nets, Marianne Cooper's probing analysis explores what keeps Americans up at night. Through poignant case studies, she reveals what families are concerned about, how they manage their anxiety, whose job it is to worry, and how social class shapes all of these dynamics, including what is even worth worrying about in the first place. This powerful study is packed with intriguing discoveries ranging from the surprising anxieties of the rich to the critical role of women in keeping struggling families afloat. Through tales of stalwart stoicism, heart-wrenching worry, marital angst, and religious conviction, Cut Adrift deepens our understanding of how families are coping in a go-it-alone age--and how the different strategies on which affluent, middle-class, and poor families rely upon not only reflect inequality, but fuel it.

Excerpt

Timothy J. Bowers, a sixty-two-year-old man in Ohio, struggled to find a good, stable job after the drug wholesale company for which he made deliveries closed. After a fruitless three-year search, he came up with a plan to get by until he was old enough to receive Social Security. After handing over his apartment keys to his landlady, he told her that he probably would not be back. He then walked a few blocks to a bank, went inside, handed a teller a stickup note, received $80, and then turned the money over to the bank’s security guard and waited for the police to arrive and arrest him. At his trial, Bowers explained to the judge that with only minimum-wage jobs available to him, going to jail for three years would “suit me fine” since, upon his release from prison, he would be sixty-six years old and thus old enough to receive his full Social Security benefits.

In a New York Times article that satirically describes Bowers as “an honest-to-goodness visionary” in the realm of retirement planning, Bowers’s attorney, Jeremy W. Dodgion, described Bowers’s actions as a sign of the times, stating, “At his age, it was harder and harder to find a job with benefits, [so] he finally said, to hell with it.” After three years of barely getting by, of going without health care and sick leave, of worrying about where his next dollar would come from and with his future prospects bleak, Mr. Bowers . . .

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