Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Author argues that impoverished whites are passing hopelessness from one generation to the next

Graham's book cover
Impoverished white Americans, largely in rural areas, are inheriting hopelessness from previous generations, argues Carol Graham, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, in her book, Happiness for All?: Unequal Lives and Hopes in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Graham said "those who believe in their future are more likely to invest in it. For poor people with little time and money to spend on building a better future, hope and optimism are even more important," Ana Swanson reports for The Washington Post.

She said "inequality shapes people’s hopes and beliefs about the future, and that those perceptions are passed down to future generations just as surely as an inheritance would be," Swanson writes. "Today, 62 percent of Americans think their children will be worse off than they are."

Graham told Swanson, “If you think about the makeup of rural places where many poor whites live, they’re socially isolated. Everybody drives everywhere, and the distances are huge. For people in places like that, your job was your place of social interaction and if you lose that there isn’t much left.”

"There is a lot of anger and resentment now, particularly among blue-collar whites," Graham said. "But we still haven’t had a decent public discussion about inequality, perhaps because there’s still this attitude that any government handout is bad. ‘Make America Great Again’ was in large part about people falling behind, but the word inequality didn’t come in there once... One of the things we find is that there is really low optimism for the future among poor whites, and desperation and suicide."

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