Yellow's Green

The Adventures of Money Blog.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Review - The Two Income Trap

The next book in line from the "recommended by Mom" category was "The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke" by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

The title gives the impression that you're in for yet another "the Mother's place is in the home" argument, but that's not really what you find at all. Instead, the book touches a little on the history of women going into the work force and why economic forces have made it close to impossible for the modern mother to stay at home. But that's not the heart of the matter.

It illustrates very clearly how easy it is to go broke, and why it's happening. The thing I found most fascinating was the history of the lending industry. It used to be you had to go to a bank, and prove you actually could afford a house before they would lend you the dough. Now, folks are getting hounded left and right to borrow money for everything - and the hardest hit are those who actually can't afford anything.

The authors do a great job of debunking common myths about why so many families are going bankrupt, like people are spending too much on frivolities, and they generally spend more on stuff (a TV for every room, etc.).

A quote from the Powell's review: "Today's two-income family earns 75% more money than its single-income counterpart of a generation ago, but actually has less discretionary income once their fixed monthly bills are paid... Warren and Tyagi provide convincing evidence that the culprit is not "overconsumption," as many critics have charged. Instead, they point to the ferocious bidding war for housing and education that has quietly engulfed America's suburbs. Stay-at-home mothers once provided a financial safety net if disaster struck; their move into the workforce has left today's families chillingly at risk. The authors show why the usual remedies - child-support enforcement, subsidized daycare, and higher salaries for women - won't solve the problem, and propose a set of innovative solutions, from rate caps on credit cards to open-access public schools, to restore security to the middle class."

Overall, I love this book and would rate it as one of my favorites. It delves into our social history, politics, and is an inspiring call to action. It also makes me feel even better about my old-fashioned commitment to be a stay at home mother.


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