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Cut Adrift

Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times

Marianne Cooper
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 313
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  • Book Info
    Cut Adrift
    Book Description:

    Cut Adriftmakes 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 Adriftdeepens 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95845-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction: ONE NATION UNDER WORRY
    (pp. 1-26)

    On Monday, October 6, 2008, the day we brought our first child home from the hospital, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by as much as 800 points before ending down by 370 points. The Dow closed under 10,000 that day for the first time since 2004. By the end of the week the index had fallen 18 percent as investors started reacting to bad credit news.

    I was generally oblivious to these developments. I was physically exhausted from giving birth to our daughter, and all of my attention was focused on caring for our new baby. But my husband...

  6. 1 From Shared Prosperity to the Age of Insecurity: HOW WE GOT HERE
    (pp. 27-45)

    Tales of families, particularly middle-class and working-class families, experiencing upheavals and setbacks because of job losses, health-care emergencies, and stagnating wages have become increasingly common. Economic uncertainty has always existed, of course, but the breadth and depth of the problem in twenty-first-century America is alarming. In fact, until relatively recently many people assumed that secure jobs, rising incomes, and upward mobility were an inherent part of American society. Times have changed.

    In the broadest historical perspective, today’s widespread sense of economic uncertainty is not so much a new phenomenon as a regression to an older state many Americans believed had...

  7. 2 Forging Security in an Insecure Age: THE STUDY
    (pp. 46-64)

    It was my desire to understand how families were responding to the powerful forces described in chapter 1 that led me to be in the living rooms and lives of fifty families, from rich to poor, in Silicon Valley to explore how they forge security in an insecure age. For my project I conducted just over a hundred interviews with members of fifty diverse families from across the economic spectrum. I also conducted in-depth ethnographic research with five of these families. The intensive data collection period lasted for about two years, from the summer of 2005 to the summer of...

  8. 3 Downscaling for Survival: LAURA DELGADO
    (pp. 65-91)

    It’s a cold, windy November afternoon. Forty-four-year-old Laura Delgado is sitting in the stands at a local elementary school’s baseball diamond, watching the baseball game of her ten-year-old son, Dylan. She is wearing gray sweat-pants, a bright orange San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, and a black baseball cap pulled down low so that it covers her closely cropped dark hair. Laura’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Hayley, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Megan, are standing off to the side, talking with friends from the neighborhood. Laura is mostly engrossed in the game, yelling supportive comments as Dylan takes his turn at bat: “You’ll get it...

  9. 4 The Upscaling of Security at the Top: BROOKE AND PAUL MAH
    (pp. 92-126)

    It’s Halloween night and Brooke Mah and her two children, twelve-year-old Jacob and ten-year-old Alec, are warming themselves near the fire pit a neighbor has set up in his driveway. Jacob is dressed like a monster and Alec is dressed like a scarecrow, with long pieces of hay streaming from his costume. Brooke and her neighbor are chatting, but Brooke is focused more on keeping Alec away from the fire, even pushing him back at one point and exclaiming, “Alec, your costume could easily catch fire—stay back!

    Brooke remains on high alert as her children trick-or-treat around the neighborhood....

  10. 5 Holding On at the Middle: GINA AND SAM CALAFATO
    (pp. 127-157)

    It’s 8:00 on a warm Tuesday evening in September, and Sam Calafato is helping his fourteen-year-old daughter, Mindy, with her geometry homework. Over the last hour, Sam, who is wearing denim shorts and a blue-and-white-striped T-shirt, has intermittently cleaned up the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher, scrubbing pots and pans, and drying clean dishes with a red-and-white-checkered towel while fielding Mindy’s questions.

    Mindy, a usually cheerful girl with long, wavy blond hair and large green eyes, is feeling very stressed. Only a month into her first year of high school, she is overwhelmed by the amount of homework and...

  11. 6 When Religion Fills the Gap: LAETA AND KAPO FALEAU
    (pp. 158-188)

    It is 8:30 on a sunny Sunday morning and six members of the Faleau family are sitting quietly in their minivan as they make the twenty-minute trip along a freeway and over a bridge to get to their Mormon church for services. There are Mormon churches that are closer to their home, but they prefer this one because they like its equal mix of white, Latino, and Pacific Islander families.

    When the Faleaus arrive, they hurry inside the church. With only a few minutes to spare before the services begin, the Faleaus hastily settle into a pew in the back....

  12. 7 Debt and Hope: EDDIE AND CHELSEA JENNER
    (pp. 189-206)

    On a cool, crystal-clear spring morning, I turn into a cul-de-sac in a middle-class neighborhood in Silicon Valley and park my car in front of the Jenner family’s house. Like many other neighborhoods I’ve visited over the last two years, this one is filled with single-level California-style ranch homes circa 1950 or 1960. Like its neighbors on either side, the Jenners’ dark gray house with white trim has a low roofline, window shutters, and an attached two-car garage. The front lawn, dead in patches from the winter, bears the artifacts of the Jenners’ child-focused life: bike helmets, two red scooters,...

  13. Conclusion: THE SOCIAL COST
    (pp. 207-220)

    Paul Mah’s account of the differences between the life he had growing up and the one he now lives reflects the economic, employment, and political changes that have occurred over the last several decades—the shift away from shared responsibility for the risks involved in managing lives, taking care of families, and securing futures, and a movement toward greater self-provisioning. Today the federal government is no longer in the business of supplying soft landings to those in free fall; employers no longer provide a social contract to their workers to cushion life’s ups and downs. Thus, the risks for which...

  14. Epilogue: THE FAMILIES TODAY
    (pp. 221-250)

    In the years since I completed my in-depth research with Laura Delgado, her life has continued to be difficult. About three years ago, she suffered a massive heart attack. Fortunately, she got to the hospital in time and made a full recovery. Last year, she got evicted from the apartment she shares with her two daughters, now in their early twenties, after getting in a disagreement with their landlord. Her younger daughter, Hayley, was able to find them another apartment quickly, but for Laura, the whole ordeal was “shameful.” And her most recent bad break was her termination from her...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 251-272)
  16. References
    (pp. 273-288)
  17. Index
    (pp. 289-296)