US families have been pushed to the wall. At the bottom of the economic ladder, poor and working-class adults aren't forming stable relationships and can't give their kids the start they need because of low wages and uncertain job prospects. Toward the top, professional parents' lives have become a grinding slog of long hours of paid work. Meanwhile their kids are overstressed by pressure to succeed and get into good colleges. In this provocative book, Maxine Eichnerargues that these very different struggles might seem unconnected, but they share the same root cause: the increasingly large toll that economic inequality and insecurity are taking on families. It's government rather than families that's to blame, Eichner persuasively contends. Since the 1970s, politicians have sold families out to the wrongheaded notion that the free market alone best supports them. In five decades of "free-market family policy," they've scrapped government programs and gutted market regulations that had helped families thrive.
The consequence is the steady drumbeat of bad news we hear about our country today: the opioid epidemic, skyrocketing suicide and mentalillness rates, "deaths of despair," and mediocre student achievement scores. Meanwhile, politicians just keep telling families to work a little harder. The Free-Market Family documents US families' impossible plight, showing how much worse they fare than families in other countries. It then demonstrates how politicians' free-market illusions steered our nation wildly off course. Finally, it shows how, using commonsense measures, we can restructure the economy to work for families, rather than the reverse. Doing so would invest in our children's futures, increase our wellbeing, reknit our social fabric, and allow our country to reclaimthe American Dream.
Maxine Eichner is the Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University Of North Carolina School Of Law. She is the author of The Supportive State: Families, Government, and America's Political Ideals, and is a lead author on the Pluralization of Families chapter of the International Panel on Social Progress 2018 Report, Rethinking Society for the 21st Century.
The real problem is not that American families are failing. It's that our government is failing American families. Maxine Eichner's powerful new book shows how a policy approach grounded in free-market fantasies has made it harder to raise kids than in almost any rich nation-and how that can and must change.
Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University, and author of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream
The United States imagines itself to be deeply pro-family. But Maxine Eichner demonstrates just how far our reality falls short of that aspiration, outlining what real pro-family policies would look like. Above all, she offers a compelling version of the American dream, focusing not on GDP but on GHP-the growth of human potential-of every American.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America
Provocative, beautifully written, and illuminating-and directly addressed to some of the most important issues of our time. Highly recommended!
Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University, and author of On Freedom
"This book is an absolute must read. Packed with rigorous data and compelling stories of how American families are stretched to the breaking point, Maxine Eichner makes a convincing case that, far from a nation that values families, our free market approach stacks the deck against them
to the detriment of us all. To those who say we cant afford to support American families, Eichner shows that we cant afford not to, and that nothing is more crucial
to the future of this country and the reinvigoration of the American Dream." -Brigid Schulte, award-winning journalist, author of the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play when No One has the Time, and director of The Better Life Lab at New America
"No families suffer more under our 'free-market family policy,' Eichner shows, than the poor, disproportionately African American families who, in spite of their best efforts, face powerful, intersectional, racial, gendered, and economic obstacles to providing what their families need. This book is a vivid account of the way our current social order is falling far short and therefore squandering the potential of our most vulnerable children, subjecting their parents
to harrowing lives, and rending our social fabric in ways that will make it very difficult to repair." -Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Dean and Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law