Dream Hoarders
America is becoming a class-based society.It is now conventional wisdom to focus on the wealth of the top 1 percent—especially the top 0.01 percent—and how the ultra-rich are concentrating income and prosperity while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant. But the most important, consequential, and widening gap in American society is between the upper middle class and everyone else.Reeves defines the upper middle class as those whose incomes are in the top 20 percent of American society. Income is not the only way to measure a society, but in a market economy it is crucial because access to money generally determines who gets the best quality education, housing, health care, and other necessary goods and services.As Reeves shows, the growing separation between the upper middle class and everyone else can be seen in family structure, neighborhoods, attitudes, and lifestyle. Those at the top of the income ladder are becoming more effective at passing on their status to their children, reducing overall social mobility. The result is not just an economic divide but a fracturing of American society along class lines. Upper-middle-class children become upper-middle-class adults.These trends matter because the separation and perpetuation of the upper middle class corrode prospects for more progressive approaches to policy. Various forms of “opportunity hoarding” among the upper middle class make it harder for others to rise up to the top rung. Examples include zoning laws and schooling, occupational licensing, college application procedures, and the allocation of internships. Upper-middle-class opportunity hoarding, Reeves argues, results in a less competitive economy as well as a less open society.Inequality is inevitable and can even be good, within limits. But Reeves argues that society can take effective action to reduce opportunity hoarding and thus promote broader opportunity. This fascinating book shows how American society has become the very class-defined society that earlier Americans rebelled against—and what can be done to restore a more equitable society.

Dream Hoarders Details

TitleDream Hoarders
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 13th, 2017
PublisherBrookings Institution Press
ISBN081572912X
ISBN-139780815729129
Number of pages240 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, Economics, Sociology, Teaching, Contemporary, Social Movements, Social Justice, History, Social Issues, Poverty

Dream Hoarders Review

  • Trish
    June 20, 2017
    At first Reeves’ argument, that the upper middle class should voluntarily give up their advantaged place in society, sounds virtuous, if a little unlikely. But gradually, listening to his arguments in this slim book of charts, graphs, and statistics, we remember what we don’t like about America: how our segregated neighborhoods bear little resemblance to what we see on the news every night. We sense a dislocation so strong we know it could come back to bite us, or more importantly, our children. At first Reeves’ argument, that the upper middle class should voluntarily give up their advantaged place in society, sounds virtuous, if a little unlikely. But gradually, listening to his arguments in this slim book of charts, graphs, and statistics, we remember what we don’t like about America: how our segregated neighborhoods bear little resemblance to what we see on the news every night. We sense a dislocation so strong we know it could come back to bite us, or more importantly, our children. Using beneficial social and tax structures to advantage our children and perpetuate class division may ultimately work to their detriment, and is certainly skewing the competitiveness of a large proportion of our working class, and therefore our nation as a whole.First, Reeves posits that real advancement for most people in our society is predicated on access to knowledge and information, i.e., “knowledge is power.” Right away we realize that access to information has never been equally distributed in this country, and that many of us have considered attainment of an IV-league education for ourselves and our children the highest goal. Virtuous in itself, one could say. But, Reeves points out, who is actually able to attend the IV-league is skewed by a few factors which can ultimately taint the achievement: access is unequal and not as competitive as touted. One reason is inequality in preparing for admission, and another is legacy admissions for relatives of graduates. Reeves suggests we protest legacy admissions until they are denounced publicly as discriminatory like they were in a strongly class-based society like Britain in the middle of the last century. Inherited admissions clearly work for the benefit of the landed class alone, and are therefore something which perpetuates inequality. For greater equality of opportunity, one has to look at lower schools, and who has access to the best schools. The best schools often go along with the best neighborhoods, the most nourishing family environments, opportunities for exposure to both nature and culture, music, art, etc.…and these are circumscribed, Reeves tells us, by zoning restrictions disallowing multi-family dwellings, low(er)-income high(er)-rises in desirable suburbs. I had a harder time reconciling this argument of his. In the United States, despite laws forbidding discrimination in real estate, there was demonstrable race-based discrimination in real estate throughout the twentieth century. Races were segregated beyond what would occur naturally—that is, races seeking to live with others of their culture. The idea is to allow access to desirable suburbs with good schools, nature, etc. If we stop discrimination on the basis of race, that will take care of some of the problem. Then, if we can add low(er)-income high(er)-rise buildings without changing the essential benefit of desirable suburbs (leafy, green, quiet, beautiful), I’m all for it. Let’s do it everywhere.For those that cannot escape poor schools in the inner-city, Reeves suggests we offer our best teachers the hardest jobs: teaching in low-income neighborhoods downtown. These excellent teachers would be offered the best salaries. I have no objection to this, but I fear it will not produce the outpouring of talent that Reeves is anticipating. Teaching is a profession, and we have learned anything about professions, it is that money is not always the strongest motivator. At the margins, a certain amount of money can induce some individuals to take on difficult jobs, but the inducements must quickly become exponential after a certain level of difficulty, saying nothing about the kinds of returns one would be expected to produce annually. But big challenges can be an inducement and the money will help make sense of it. It’s absolutely worth trying. Let’s do it everywhere.Among other things that would flatten the playing field is to eliminate our most beloved tax breaks which, Reeves explains, are in effect subsidies for the wealthiest among us: College savings 529 tax havens, and the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Eliminating these two loopholes would add hundred of billions to government coffers, while disadvantaging those in the upper 20% income bracket very little indeed and flattening the playing field for the rest of us. Lastly, Reeves suggests that internships during college are often distributed not on merit, but on the basis of class, familiarity, or favored status. Since jobs to which many of us aspire are often awarded on the basis of experience, internships, which deliver a certain level of confidence to applicants, can be extremely useful in bridging the gap from childhood to adulthood within the target job area. While favored distribution of internships seemed somewhat trivial to me and other critics Reeves mentions, he counters with “If it is trivial, you won’t mind then if we eliminate/outlaw it.” So be it. All “merit” all the time, if we can be reasonably expected to perfect that little measure.It is not going to surprise me when liberals discover status and wealth do not necessarily translate into greater life satisfaction or happiness and therefore decide to voluntarily give up certain advantages that perpetuate their inherently unequal class ranking for the greater benefit of the society in which they live. It is conservatives in the ranks of the well-to-do that may hold back progress. According to Nancy MacLean’s new book called Democracy in Chains, which paid some attention to the basis of far right conservative thinking, the wealthy feel they deserve their wealth, even if it is inherited, or even if it is made on the backs of exploited labor. It may be more difficult to get past this barrier to change.On the basis of the statistics Reeves shares about the stickiness of class status among the top 20% of income earners, he writes persuasively about different individual things we can do to alleviate huge class disparities in opportunity. Reeves addresses the experience of J.D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy) explicitly in the book, and indirectly in the first of the short video links given below. It is difficult and uncomfortable to move up the ladder but people with exceptional skills are not going to be discriminated against: “The labor market is not a snob.”Two very short videos posted on my blog quickly and easily explain the concepts Reeves is trying to get across. Check it out.
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  • Paul
    June 6, 2017
    Eye-opening. Scary. Brave. Reeves lays out an unpopular and unvarnished truth about America's privileged class of which he and most of his readers (including me) are members. His sincere and thorough scholarship make for an interesting if uncomfortable read.
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  • Miranda
    June 13, 2017
    Placeholder reviewSome good observations and awful conclusions. I will write more later. But in the meantime I will note that this guy quotes the likes of Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame!) and implies that virtually anything people do to help their children is part of a malicious economic game. There's no room in his world for intrinsic values. His view of the world is one in which people only value pursuits insofar as they bring profit, in which people dropping millions to secure legacy Placeholder reviewSome good observations and awful conclusions. I will write more later. But in the meantime I will note that this guy quotes the likes of Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame!) and implies that virtually anything people do to help their children is part of a malicious economic game. There's no room in his world for intrinsic values. His view of the world is one in which people only value pursuits insofar as they bring profit, in which people dropping millions to secure legacy college admissions are upper middle class, and in which parents should consider not reading to their children so as to ensure the proper amount of class self-flagellation. I was disappointed in this book.Also, edited to add this important fact: He never once mentions health care costs or the ways that a serious illness or injury can absolutely bankrupt people even among the "dream hoarding" class. He never mentions that downward mobility via medical bankruptcy is basically a threat for everyone in America except the 1%. Even with the ACA, many people still face outrageous health care costs, especially if they require long-term care late in life. This is a fact he conveniently ignores in his quest to shame people with a certain combination of income, financial planning acumen / privilege, and personal values that happen to include education. He conflates the 1% with the "upper middle class" so often it's deceitful.
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  • Stephen Bates
    July 1, 2017
    I hated this book. I knew I would hate it when I read Dr. Reeves' 10 Jun Sun NY Times article "Stop Pretending You're Not Rich". https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/op...I knew I would hate that Dr. Reeves would call me out for my efforts at gaming the system (529s, property, investments, parenting, university admissions, job referrals/networking) to ensure that my daughter would not fall out of the top quintile, regardless of how many times she might fail, despite our best efforts.In all fairnes I hated this book. I knew I would hate it when I read Dr. Reeves' 10 Jun Sun NY Times article "Stop Pretending You're Not Rich". https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/op...I knew I would hate that Dr. Reeves would call me out for my efforts at gaming the system (529s, property, investments, parenting, university admissions, job referrals/networking) to ensure that my daughter would not fall out of the top quintile, regardless of how many times she might fail, despite our best efforts.In all fairness, "Dream Hoarders" is an excellent book, Reeves writes with clarity, simplicity, and brevity discussing how Upper Middle Class (top 20%) privileges are distorting the playing field for the bottom 80%, and promoting more equality while making social mobility more difficult."Beneath a veneer of classlessness, the American class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency. In particular, the upper middle class is solidifying. This favored fifth at the top of the income distribution, with an average annual household income of $200,000, has been separating from the 80 percent below."This is a well researched book, Reeves documents meticulously, and cites his work while promoting original thought -- not only admiring the problem in the first several chapters, but also makes some pragmatic policy recommendations (housing/zoning/internships/birth control) in the last few. The challenge? Persuading the Upper Middle Class to give up their privilege and accept that some of their offspring might fall out of the top quintile. No small feat. I'm not sure I'm willing to do it.
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  • Helen Jacoby
    July 3, 2017
    Reeves has a good point when he talks about how the top 20% (upper middle class) of the American population are getting more benefits than they deserve, and how this should change. However many of the data he presents are not new, and the policy proposals he offers are so large and varied that it's impossible to imagine them all being enacted in the near future. I agree with almost everything he says, but the argument could probably have been made in a nice long New Yorker article, rather than r Reeves has a good point when he talks about how the top 20% (upper middle class) of the American population are getting more benefits than they deserve, and how this should change. However many of the data he presents are not new, and the policy proposals he offers are so large and varied that it's impossible to imagine them all being enacted in the near future. I agree with almost everything he says, but the argument could probably have been made in a nice long New Yorker article, rather than requiring an entire book, especially if he stuck to outlining the problem and reduced the number of policy prescriptions to just a few initial proposals that might have a chance of actually being carried out.
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  • Bruce
    July 5, 2017
    Thoughtful, carefully-drawn, mostly moral argument about barriers to opportunity in America, many of which are erected by those who have "made it." Prose is accessible and personable, though repetitiveness is a problem.
  • Rin
    July 11, 2017
    This book talks about the benefits the upper-middle class have, which they pass on to their children through various tax breaks, zoning laws, social connections and educational investments and training. To be quite honest, I read the book simply for this reason. To see how the rich raise their children. However, Reeves also talks about how these benefits are "hoarded" by the 20% of Americans that fall under this tax bracket and should be shared with the of the other 80% of the country through a This book talks about the benefits the upper-middle class have, which they pass on to their children through various tax breaks, zoning laws, social connections and educational investments and training. To be quite honest, I read the book simply for this reason. To see how the rich raise their children. However, Reeves also talks about how these benefits are "hoarded" by the 20% of Americans that fall under this tax bracket and should be shared with the of the other 80% of the country through a few sacrifices here and there.I want to start by saying this book's tone does not direct itself to people of color (or people in general, for that matter) who are moving into the upper-middle class with say, a $50K income by marrying someone with an income of $82K. Which adds up to an upper-middle class income. It's also not for someone who is the first of their family to belong to the upper-middle class. The second-person tone is intended for the rich, White elite. Those Americans who have generational wealth and plan to pass their legacy on to their children. With good reason! They have the least to lose by giving up a little to help others get just a fraction of what they have. I bring this up because, as a Black woman, I am not giving up my legacy status that might get my niece or nephew into the elite universities I worked to gain entrance into. I am not going to miss the opportunity to use my social connections to get my child a job in an industry they are interested in. Black people are creating these communities today so that we don't need to ask White conservatives for permission anymore. It's a necessary network because I don't believe the White networks will be going anywhere, ever. While I believe that White, upper-class liberals may feel as though they can give up a little to help people at the bottom gain a little, conservatives won't be as willing. We know this because a majority of White men, the top earners in this country, voted Trump into office, and so did half of their wives. So while I think Reeves, however well-intentioned, did an amazing job aggregating research and data, his solutions may not be as realistic or even reasonable to most of his cohorts. I wonder if he realizes just how many disagree with him.The other thing that irked me was the redundancy of the book. Each chapter said the exact same thing over and over, some points more amplified than others depending what the chapter was labeled. But I'll dismiss it. I also found the "there are no class lines" argument to be a little tone deaf, considering that if you drive through any major city you can clearly tell the difference between housing, grocery stores (if they even are any), schools and even where and how kids are playing. I think when some people claim there are no clear class lines in America, they're talking about how we can all sit in the same movie theatre or something. The reality is that class is very apparent here. It's just that people stay away from one another, no one speaks the same language, and no one talks about it. As a small example, he said that people do not focus much on elocution in the states. Though, if you come from an inner-city neighborhood, you definitely don't speak the same language as a child who was primed to be a financial adviser from a young age. That can and will affect your future in the American social stratosphere, whether you are highly educated or not.I didn't expect the author to know these things but I think the distinction should be noted for any Black readers who may pick up this book. Read it to see how the rich raise their kids. Do not read it to see exactly what they think the answers to our troubles should be. You'll gain more out of the book if you do.
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  • Gretchen
    July 19, 2017
    I am sympathetic to the macro-critique here, living at the edge of the top quintile and participating in many elements of its lifestyle while unable to access others. It also helps confirm my sense of why the families I teach are so fiercely obsessed with getting their children into certain colleges. That said, the book itself is thin (it should be an article), fairly dry in its reporting of various studies' findings, and lacking in theoretical rigor. Rather than admit that college legacy admiss I am sympathetic to the macro-critique here, living at the edge of the top quintile and participating in many elements of its lifestyle while unable to access others. It also helps confirm my sense of why the families I teach are so fiercely obsessed with getting their children into certain colleges. That said, the book itself is thin (it should be an article), fairly dry in its reporting of various studies' findings, and lacking in theoretical rigor. Rather than admit that college legacy admissions are a personal beef, the author should examine the extent of their impact on overall access to college before focusing on them. He is quick to endorse free-market capitalism and exhibits some of the transplant's myopia about race (there are no Americans concerned with teaching their children to speak differently as a component of success?? really??).I'm also not convinced that most Americans care about relative mobility--that is, having one's children outrank the Jones's children in some zero-sum ranking of success. Rather, as Reeves himself notes but does not address, the anxiety of the top quintile with replicating their own success in their children is due to the fact that winding up in the third or fourth quintile is, as he notes, to struggle and to be economically vulnerable. Identifying ways to increase the well-being of the truly middle class seems like the essential issue here, one he does not address.Unfortunately, if one is looking for a book to share with the top quintile that might prick its conscience and set it on a course to corrective action, I don't think this volume will make a dent.
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  • Michael
    July 16, 2017
    I’m very glad I read this book. The author quickly and efficiently raises issues and proposed resolutions to the class divide in the U.S. He’s British (now an American citizen as well) and makes the argument that class structure is worsening in the United States while loosening in the U.K. He gives practical suggestions (some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t) about how to remedy the problem. Even if one agrees with him it’s hard to see how many of his prescriptions would be foll I’m very glad I read this book. The author quickly and efficiently raises issues and proposed resolutions to the class divide in the U.S. He’s British (now an American citizen as well) and makes the argument that class structure is worsening in the United States while loosening in the U.K. He gives practical suggestions (some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t) about how to remedy the problem. Even if one agrees with him it’s hard to see how many of his prescriptions would be followed. Still - he raises good issues and ones that I feel I should be thinking about and grappling with in this day and age.
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  • Matthew Beyerle
    June 19, 2017
    Great book - fascinating to ponder the rigidity of class mobility in America, the country that touts itself on rags to riches possibilities. Reeves pointed out numerous ways (many of which I've never even considered) the upper middle class in America shields itself from economic hardship. He seemed prefer to list many areas of inequality, rather than dive deep into any individual area, but suggested additional readings that give a deeper picture of the arguments he introduced.
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  • Reezy
    July 12, 2017
    It was a good read, a bit repetitive at times, but he had very good data and facts. He was knowledgeable on certain government programs and college funds that help the upper middle class. It seems that the biggest problem isn't that there is an upper middle class, but that if you fall under that echelon, you are in a world of pain.I personally think there should be more focus on making it less terrible to be poorer.
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  • Michelle Tran
    July 14, 2017
    I came in agreeing with the premise, but finished disagreeing with the policy proposals as I don't feel like they go far enough in addressing inequality. Otherwise I found the book itself not very insightful.
  • Justin
    July 4, 2017
    good thesis, still, want more details. just a long article. for instance, how does mortgage interest tax deduction encourage or not encourage home ownership? this is something you get after you own a home.
  • Cyndie
    July 2, 2017
    Very interesting book about the American economy and justice.
  • Rachel Cohen
    July 11, 2017
    your time would be much better spent reading Lily Gesimer's "Don't Blame Us"
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