Squeezed?

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Clarice
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Squeezed?

Post by Clarice » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:53 pm

What do you think about this author's argument that middle class people are falling into the abyss left and right due to the forces way beyond their control? :shock:

https://www.amazon.com/Squeezed-Familie ... s=squeezed

Yesterday DD and I had one hour to kill in San Fransicko. We stumbled into a small book store and I immediately grabbed this book. DD laughed, "I knew you would like to read this book!". I do. I am #19 in line to get this book at my local library. What do you think about the argument of "no control"? Is middle class loosing? Is paradigm shifting? Are the things that you have control over enough to make a difference? :?:

Stahlmann
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Stahlmann » Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:29 pm

You know, most of people here are high earners (in global "ranking") or/and thrifty...
Guess what kind of answers you can expect :? ...

They will summon these:
http://earlyretirementextreme.com/the-d ... class.html
http://earlyretirementextreme.com/why-i ... class.html

However, I must say I don't agree.

It's difficult to keep infinitely conditions which were present after WWII (destroyed world, not so abused natural resources, very high taxes for rich, people trolling next generations into scheme). Now, ponder what happens when some of these conditions start to be obsolete.

Guess rethoric of the owners and these who aren't getting ahead.

Clarice
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Clarice » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:09 pm

Stahlmann wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:29 pm
You know, most of people here are high earners (in global "ranking") or/and thrifty...
Duly noted. ;) However, I would argue that most people here have middle/working class origins. They are trying to leave them behind by diverging their earnings from their consumption, poor aristocrat style. They are pushing against a certain resistance. There are trends in society that are going against them. A book like this one can be useful in identifying these trends (if you can stomach its mopey attitude). I am interested in creating a mental list of trends I am pushing against. :geek:

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Re: Squeezed?

Post by jacob » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:27 pm

@Clarice - Here's your next book then https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691162735/

IlliniDave
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by IlliniDave » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:04 pm

I haven't read the book, but if you believe guys like Victor Hanson there are certainly areas in the country, typically VHCOL, where the traditional middle class is fleeing (he's a Californian and typically speaks about that state). I don't know if that's the same as falling into the abyss. Reading some reviews of the book, the author is described as an Ivy League-educated New Yorker writing in part about her own experiences, so I suspect the middle class she writes about is not the traditional blue collar middle class of yore. I get the sense the middle class is thriving in LCOL states like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas even while the Great Lake states still have a way to go to rebuild theirs.

I think the problem comes in when people of middle income means try to live to live a lifestyle one tier up. If you compare the middle class of the golden years (50s and 60s) with the middle class today, today's cohort typically has more cars, bigger houses, more TVs, more clothes, take more extravagant vacations, spend more on kids' activities/entertainment, spend a thousand dollars or more per year on phones, and about the same amount on television programming. So while wage growth for the middle class has been somewhat stagnant, the lifestyle has inflated a lot. Maybe if more of tody's middle class imitated the lifestyle of their 1950s counterparts things might not seem so dire.
Last edited by IlliniDave on Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

EdithKeeler
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by EdithKeeler » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:06 pm

I have not read the book, but I did hear the interview with the author on "Fresh Air." I do think that some things have gotten a lot more expensive--there was an article in WaPo just this past week that chronicled how expensive child care has gotten and we know that college has gotten much more expensive as well.

But there's been a ton of "lifestyle creep" as well. Houses have gotten so much bigger in the last 20-30 years, we eat out way, way more than we used to, we buy way way more convenience foods... but then again, we work more, too (more women work outside the home, commutes have gotten longer, we "need" more of the latest appliances (cell phones, tvs, computers, Kindles, fancy fridges and dishwashers....). I think that if we're squeezed it's a combination of higher costs plus higher expectations. I also think that the definition of "middle class" has changed in subtle ways... and that being "middle class" is also aspirational sometimes, and leads to higher spending in certain areas.

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BRUTE
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by BRUTE » Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:01 pm

brute would argue that both college and expensive child care are also "lifestyle creep" in a sense.

college is now seen as a way of "becoming a whole human being" and "finding one's self". college attendance used to be much lower. nowadays, way too many humans go to college, destroying the signaling value of college (which, for most majors, is the majority of the value college provides).

and child care wasn't a problem in the 50s and 60s because women stayed at home. brute isn't saying that women should stay at home. but if no parent stays at home, and there is no extended family around, suddenly the family has to employ other humans to care for their children.

Campitor
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Campitor » Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:27 pm

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/up ... -class.pdf

The Global middle class has grown. Perhaps what is happening in this country (shrinking middle class) is a result of global competition, increased pressure of illegal/legal immigrants that are willing to work long hours for low pay in blue collar jobs that were traditional conduits to the middle class, and the transition to a knowledge based economy that has done a lot to vacuum middle class workers into the upper classes.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:59 pm

Thirty or 40 years ago, the joke used to be that snobby people in the affluent suburbs drove brand-new luxury cars, but snobby people in university centers signaled by driving very old cars with Ivy League bumper stickers. Now the affluent suburbs and the university centers and the hipsters downtown all signal very similarly, so the price of these signals has gone up on average. But, if you believe that it is in your self-interest to signal "aspirational", you can still do it without spending very much money.

Clarice
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Clarice » Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:29 pm

So... American middle class is squeezed by globalization (Don't want to work for $5/hr? No problem, there are plenty of guys who do) - @Campitor's argument. I agree. This is beyond one's control, largely, and can only be addressed by a policy change. This is highly unlikely to happen as the guys who control the policy are the ones benefiting from it. However, the idea that a knowledge based economy "vacuums" middle class workers into the upper class rings false to me. When you go up you always go against resistance - nothing vacuums you there.That's where the second part of the squeeze comes in - a life style creep. Citizens voluntarily forgo their power by converting into consumers. All these knowledge based workers are enticed into a heavy consumption - everybody else's argument. That sounds about right. How it's done is probably location-specific. In my neck of the woods it's done by driving a model X Tesla with a Stanford bumper sticker on it.
SUV = outdoorsy;
Tesla = environmentally conscious;
Stanford = smart; bonus points if you throw in some self-deprecating humor by rearranging the letters into Snodfart.
Thoughts?

Campitor
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Campitor » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:22 pm

Clarice wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:29 pm
However, the idea that a knowledge based economy "vacuums" middle class workers into the upper class rings false to me. When you go up you always go against resistance - nothing vacuums you there....Thoughts?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_worker:

Due to the rapid global expansion of information-based transactions and interactions being conducted via the Internet, there has been an ever-increasing demand for a workforce that is capable of performing these activities. Knowledge Workers are now estimated to outnumber all other workers in North America by at least a four to one margin.[16]:4

While knowledge worker roles overlap heavily with professions that require college degrees, the comprehensive nature of knowledge work in today's connected workplace requires virtually all workers to obtain these skills at some level. To that end, the public education and community college systems have become increasingly focused on lifelong learning to ensure students receive skills necessary to be productive knowledge workers in the 21st century.


If you live in a major metropolitan city, and you're in the middle class, and you transition to a knowledge based job, and you're good at it, you will be sucked out of middle class quickly. The low skilled worker isn't gaining knowledge because their jobs don't require it, their labor is being automated, or their services are taken over by newly arrived immigrants (legal or otherwise) who will work those jobs for lower pay, longer hours, or both. Poof! The middle class starts to shrink, the lower class and upper class starts to grow, and the GINI coefficient gets skewed.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:14 am

Clarice wrote:SUV = outdoorsy;
Tesla = environmentally conscious;
Stanford = smart; bonus points if you throw in some self-deprecating humor by rearranging the letters into Snodfart.
Thoughts?
Right. That's how you do it. Break down the expensive signal into values, and then figure out how to signal the same values without spending so much money. Of course, best-case scenario would be living a life of authentic intention and therefore naturally signaling your own true values, but sometimes it is in best alignment with self-interest to signal Roman when in Rome.

So, riding a bicycle signals both outdoorsy and environmentally conscious (except when it signals "unable to afford car insurance".) Just add a lovely straw basket full of heirloom tomatoes and interesting library books to the front and you are good to go!

OTOH, sometimes it will prove even more in alignment with self-interest to signal somewhat in opposition. For instance, if you inhabit a realm where the other females your age let their hair go gray and wear drab boxy linen tunics in order to signal "natural" and "intelligent", you can maybe get some mileage with a $6.99 box of Champagne Blonde and a cute little silk dress you picked out of the $2 heap at the thrift store.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by ThisDinosaur » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:25 am

BRUTE wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:01 pm
...expensive child care...
and child care wasn't a problem in the 50s and 60s because women stayed at home. brute isn't saying that women should stay at home. but if no parent stays at home, and there is no extended family around, suddenly the family has to employ other humans to care for their children.
I wanna highlight this. When women entered the workforce over the course of the 20th c, it doubled the supply of labor and increased the demand for products (child care services, transportation costs, work clothes...). I'm thinking this could be partly responsible for both the 20th c boom and the shrinking middle class. Because if you were an owner during this time, you were making more money off the middle class while simultaneously paying them less. Wealth transfer.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:24 am

@ThisDinosaur:
Mear's contracts for mill workers during the late 1850s typically lasted for one year...The typical workday was from sunrise to sunset...Mears could sometimes hire a man with a childless wife for the same wage given to a man with no wife at all, and he regarded this as the best possible arrangement...Whether or not a woman had children, Mears was adamant that she contribute to the work of the mill. "I am sure," he told one of his managers, "my Business will not warrant the payment of wages sufficient for any one to keep his wife as a Laidy."-William Cronon- "Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West"

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Jin+Guice
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Jin+Guice » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:39 pm

The middle class is shrinking my entire life. At least that's what everyone has always said. A cursory drive through the suburbs looks like the supply of new McMansions continues to grow. Does anyone have any actual stats for this?

These issues are often confounded by allowances for unlimited household spending. I've found it's very important, at least in America, to have started out middle or lower class. I've heard people making north of $200,000 claim to be middle class. I've heard multiple people with Yale degrees claim to be from working class families (not totally impossible, but highly improbable). There is no strict definition of the middle class, to my knowledge, so how do we know if it's shrinking?

Having the FIRE mindset adds another layer of complexity to the discussion. Does it bother me that inequality is on the rise and the megarich seem to be getting only megaricher? Yes! However, when those who are in the global 1% write books complaining about how they can't get ahead because they simply dump the money in the street and take a giant shit on it, it's hard for me to be like "the man is really holding you down, brother."

Another angle/ ERE complication, the usual solution to this problem is to add more "good jobs." If your opinion is that most jobs are at worst pointless and at best a massively inefficient waste of time and your goal is to escape jobs altogether, how do you respond to this?

I didn't read the book and I'm speaking from general experience with complaints that the middle class is being squeezed/ disappearing. Is this book different?

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by ThisDinosaur » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:02 pm

@7Wannabe5
Most couples were not childless.

Campitor
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Campitor » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:40 pm

Jin+Guice wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:39 pm
The middle class is shrinking my entire life. At least that's what everyone has always said. ...Does anyone have any actual stats for this?
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/05/ ... tan-areas/

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Jin+Guice
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Jin+Guice » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:28 pm

@ Campitor

Thanks, 1999-2014 would've been over half my life at the time and more than my entire adult life. I guess what everyone had always said was right in this case... I stand by the rest of my post.

Clarice
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by Clarice » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:18 am

@Campitor:
If you live in a major metropolitan city, and you're in the middle class, and you transition to a knowledge based job, and you're good at it, you will be sucked out of middle class quickly.
If you are talking about higher incomse I agree. However, to me high class includes way more than money, especially money that are not well spent. Most people end up squandering their high income on first mortgage, second mortgage, private mortgage insurance, car payments. They never leave the grind and don't get an opportunity to acquire, for example, social or political capital, without which you are not really high class.

@7wb5:
sometimes it will prove even more in alignment with self-interest to signal somewhat in opposition. For instance, if you inhabit a realm where the other females your age let their hair go gray and wear drab boxy linen tunics in order to signal "natural" and "intelligent", you can maybe get some mileage with a $6.99 box of Champagne Blonde and a cute little silk dress you picked out of the $2 heap at the thrift store.
Ha-ha! I wish I inhabit this realm... Here, at "the bestest place on earth" (stealing this one from Sclass) they do it Hollywood style : real diamonds - fake breasts. An opposition is a B cup signaling, "I didn't pay for mine." :lol: :lol: :lol: (Sorry gentlemen for veering off topic! :o) However, there is some interesting research suggesting fake signals often do not work. I didn't read the original research though. In his book The Natural History of the Rich Richard Conniff writes:
... fakers usually fail in the long run, as scientists have demonstrated in a series of bizarre forays into what might be termed a falsey factor. In one experiment... a researcher sewed artificial plastic swords onto the tails of male platyfish and found that females preferred males with long tails. The Danish ornithologist Anders P. Moller performed a similar experiment on European barn swallows... Moller glued an extra few centimeters of feather on the tails of some males... The male with longer tails found mates more easily... But the Moller experiment... contained a surprising moral: The artificially enhanced tails impaired flight, and the fakers could no longer hunt insects as effectively. None of them returned from the winter migration next spring... DNA testing revealed that only about 50 percent of the offspring in the fakers' nests had actually been fathered by them. The females have somehow figured out that they'd been duped...By contrast, males with naturally long tails fathered about 95% of the young in their nests. In other words, the badge of status only worked for individuals who were entitled to wear it.
I believe the same is true for people. :idea:

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Squeezed?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:31 am

@Clarice:

It's true that faking it, in part because you are usually going to be late to the party or more than a bit off-key in adopting signals (e.g. "natural" box meal delivery service), often doesn't work, but "fake it until you make it" is another matter. IOW, if you truly hold the value, but you simply haven't yet been able to achieve a level of mastery that is accepted as "signal" then you often will succeed if you persist.

Class in America is a subtle, shifting reality. Most of us are "mutts" who believe in some form of meritocracy, so what will constitute the appropriate and adequate collection of badges on your Brownie sash to earn you access to the any given Jamboree, will vary significantly. For instance, my maternal grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was card-carrying Union member, beer-drinking, swearing at her cop brother in Polish, working class, but I can't pass for working class, even though I am always accepted as one of the women toting a casserole to a gathering in the church hall after a funeral (standard, old-school Midwestern Mom.)

I was thinking about this is relationship to the off-hand advice often offered here to young people along the lines of "You are better off going into a skilled trade than getting a liberal arts degree if you suck at computers." Like some kid from a family that has been upper-middle-class educated for multiple generations is going to know how to make the connections necessary to secure an apprenticeship as a locksmith and navigate the social relationships in that context, any more than a kid from the decrepit neighborhood where I tutor is going to know how to get into an Ivy League University, or how to make it through to graduation.

A counter-example to this line of advice would be the experience of my DD's best friend. She chose even worse "waste of money" than liberal arts degree, she chose to attend fine arts school. As might be predicted, she worked her tres chic self as a barista/similar for several years after graduation and barely made ends meet. But, eventually, she secured a position as a teacher at a Montessori school in a very affluent neighborhood, and she was so good at her job, she raised a staggering record amount of donations at the school art auction, and is now quite well-regarded, happy and secure in her profession at the age of 28.

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