Book Review: Our Kids, by Robert Putnam

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

In Bowling Alone, political scientist and Harvard professor Robert Putnam took a close look at the evolving landscape of community in the United States. With Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, he turns to a distinct but inherently related topic: the dissolution of the American Dream and the many ways that class mobility in the U.S. has stagnated in the 50 years since Putnam himself was a child. Putnam explores the "myths and realities" of the American Dream before analyzing the various factors that he claims are preventing young people today from achieving upward class mobility, which involve family structure, parenting, schooling and community.

The research behind Our Kids spans myriad quantitative and qualitative studies and draws on anecdotal evidence from towns across the country to illustrate his points about class immobility: namely, that affluent kids are offered more opportunities to succeed, often without even realizing it, than poor kids can even imagine. For the purposes of his arguments, Putnam defines "upper-class" homes as those with parents who graduated from college and "lower-class" homes as those with parents with a high school diploma or below. This definition can be problematic in its oversimplification, though Putnam's thorough explanation of the reasoning behind it saves it from distracting from the overall arguments of the book. It's a good thing, too, for his conclusions include actionable and important recommendations on what average citizens can do to change the inherently danger status quo he has observed--including a call for "a commitment to invest in other people's children... our kids."


A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review.
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis | Robert Putnam | Simon & Schuster | March 2015

1 comment

  1. This sounds really thought-provoking and important! Thanks for sharing.


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