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New American Reality, The

New American Reality, The: Who We Are, How We Got Here, Where We Are Going

Reynolds Farley
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 396
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  • Book Info
    New American Reality, The
    Book Description:

    "A fascinating and authoritative account of American social history since 1960 as viewed through the prism of government statistics....[Farley] uses publicly available data, straight forward methods, and modest...language, to provide more information and insight about recent social trends than any other volume in print." -American Journal of Sociology

    "A brilliant piece of work. Farley is absolutely masterful at taking tens of thousands of national survey statistics and weaving from them a fascinating and beautifully illustrated tapestry of who we are." -Barry Bluestone, Frank L. Boyden Professor of Political Economy, University of Massachusetts, Boston

    The New American Realitypresents a compelling portrait of an America strikingly different from what it was just forty years ago.Gone is the idealized vision of a two-parent, father-supported Ozzie and Harriet society. In its place is an America of varied races andethnic backgrounds, where families take on many forms and mothers frequently work outside the home. Drawing on a definitive analysis of the past four U.S. censuses, author Reynolds Farley reveals a country that offers new opportunities for a broader spectrum of people, while at the same time generating frustration and apprehension for many who once thought their futures secure.

    The trends that have so transformed the nation were kindled in the 1960s, a watershed period during which many Americans redefined their attitudes toward the rights of women and blacks.The New American Realitydescribes the activism, federal policymaking, and legal victories that eliminated overtracial and sexual discrimination. But along with open doors came new challenges. Divorce and out-of-wedlock births grew commonplace, forcing more women to raise children alone and-despite improved wages-increasing their chances of falling into poverty. Residential segregation, inadequate schooling, and a particularly high ratio of female-headed families severely impaired the economic progress of African Americans, many of whom were left behind in declining central cities as businesses migrated to suburbs. A new generation of immigrants from many nations joined the ranks of those working to support families and improve their prospects, and rapidly transformed the nation's ethnic composition.

    In the 1970s, unprecedented economic restructuring on a global scale created unexpected setbacks for the middle class. The long era of postwar prosperity ended as the nation's dominant industry shifted from manufacturing to services, competition from foreign producers increased, interest rates rose, and a new emphasis on technology and cost-cutting created a demand for more sophisticated skills in the workplace. The economic recovery of the 1980s generated greater prosperity for the well-educated and highly skilled, and created many low paying jobs, but offered little to remedy the stagnant and declining wages of the middle class. Income inequalitybecame a defining feature in the economic life of America: overall, the rich got richer while the poor and middle class found it increasingly difficult to meet their financial demands.

    The New American Realityreports some good news about America. Our lives are longer and healthier, the elderly are much better off than ever before, consumer spending power has increased, and minorities and women have many more opportunities. But this book does not shy away from the significant problems facing large portions of the population, and provides a valuable perspective on efforts to remedy them.The New American Realityoffers the information necessary to understandthe critical trends affecting America today, from how we earn a living to how and when we form families, where we live, and whether or not we will continue to prosper.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Founadtion Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-194-0
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Reynolds Farley
  4. Chapter 1 America in Flux: New Evidence About Our Changing Society
    (pp. 1-21)

    Censuses are cameras that capture and freeze-frame a history. They were used primarily to calculate how many men could be mobilized for war or how much property a new king might tax. The counting of the Israelites that Moses decreed the second year after the Exodus from Egypt gives us theBook of Numbers,and the gospel of Luke informs us that Christ was born in Bethlehem because of Caesar Augustus’ decree that all persons be taxed in their home cities. The United Stales is different. With great ingenuity, the framers of our Constitution decided that population size would determine...

  5. Chapter 2 The 1960s: A Turning Point in How We View Race, Gender, and Sexuality
    (pp. 22-63)

    There are times when a society shifts its fundamental views about what is acceptable, shifts so dramatic that there are substantial changes from one generation to the next in how people live their lives. The events, laws, court decisions, peaceful protests, and riots of the 1960s symbolize shifts in the attitudes and values of many Americans with regard to three vital elements of our social structure. The first was with regard to African Americans. Not since the Reconstruction era, just after the Civil War, had the United States addressed the issue of whether blacks would participate fully in our society,...

  6. Chapter 3 The 1970s: A Turning Point in the Nation’s Economy and Whom It Rewards
    (pp. 64-107)

    In 1972, Americans could buy a gallon of gasoline for about thirty-five cents, but in 1973 the finance ministers of the major oil producing countries restricted the flow of petroleum to the United States. And for a few years OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) maintained a highly effective cartel (Thurow 1980, p. 21). The price of gasoline jumped, eventually going above a dollar and a quarter a gallon in the United States. Worse yet, the shortfall in imported oil led to a brief period when gasoline was hard to find, and long queues formed around filling stations. For many,...

  7. Chapter 4 Changes in American Families
    (pp. 108-150)

    It has long been assumed that married men would spend their adult lives working to support themselves, their wives, and their children. In the post–World War II years, beneficial economic conditions enabled men to marry young and support their families, marking this era by exceptionally early marriage, high fertility, and, from the present perspective, little divorce. Chapter 2 described the far-reaching changes in society’s views about women and work and about working women and childrearing. Chapter 3 described changes in the economy, the important ones being declining employment opportunities and wages for men lacking college degrees and better job...

  8. Chapter 5 New Americans
    (pp. 151-207)

    Throughout American history, contentious arguments have raged whenever immigration has surged. Will immigrants reject American values and thereby destroy our country? Will they vote as a block undermining democracy? Will they work for such low wages that native Americans will be impoverished? Will they impose their religious systems on us? Will they retain their own languages, eventually making English a minority tongue?

    In every era, many observers and commentators thought that the answers were yes, instigating strong efforts to close the gates and to limit the rights of the foreign-born. (For a recent statement of this view, see Brimelow 1995.)...

  9. Chapter 6 Racial Issues Thirty Years After the Civil Rights Decade
    (pp. 208-271)

    The popularity of General Colin Powell as a candidate for president; the verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial and reactions to it; the Million Man March on Washington on October 25, 1995: All of these occurred simultaneously and remind us of the different ways in which skin color continues to be a divisive issue in American life. From one perspective, there is progress: an African American was briefly considered as the leading candidate for the nation’s highest office. From another, the situation in 1995 seems remarkably similar to that of the 1830s when deTocqueville (1969 [1838], chap. 10) observed...

  10. Chapter 7 Americans on the Move: New Patterns of Internal Migration
    (pp. 272-333)

    Political power and economic opportunities are now being redistributed by three types of migration. First, upwards of 1.2 million immigrants arrive from abroad each year, most of them settling in the seven states and fourteen metropolises described in chapter 5. Second, industrial restructuring and better retirement benefits accelerate migration away from the Northeast and Midwest and into the South and West. Third, within large metropolises, the outward migration of population and jobs toward edge cities continues, quite far from the old central cities. And now there is the much delayed movement of blacks into suburban rings.

    This country’s history is...

  11. Chapter 8 The Evidence About America in Decline and the Challenges of the 1990s
    (pp. 334-356)

    An ever-expanding array of books contends that this nation is in decline. The diverse authors of such books assert that the solid blue-collar jobs that created the middle class are disappearing, that our economic growth rate is too low, that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing too wide, that welfare has destroyed families and the work ethic, that our political parties can no longer solve national problems, that recent high levels of immigration will compromise our cultural heritage, and that the intelligence level in this country is gradually slipping lower.

    But has the United States truly...

  12. References
    (pp. 357-370)
  13. Index
    (pp. 371-385)