Hard Times: The Divisive Toll of the Economic Slump

Hard Times: The Divisive Toll of the Economic Slump

Tom Clark

Language: English

Pages: 312

ISBN: 0300203772

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

2008 was a watershed year for global finance. The banking system was eventually pulled back from the brink, but the world was saddled with the worst slump since the 1930s Depression, and millions were left unemployed. While numerous books have addressed the financial crisis, very little has been written about its social consequences.
Journalist Tom Clark draws on the research of a transatlantic team led by Professors Anthony Heath and Robert D. Putnam to determine the great recession’s toll on individuals, families, and community bonds in the United States and the United Kingdom. The ubiquitous metaphor of the crisis has been an all-encompassing “financial storm,” but Clark argues that the data tracks the narrow path of a tornado—destroying some neighborhoods while leaving others largely untouched. In our vastly unequal societies, disproportionate suffering is being meted out to the poor—and the book’s new analysis suggests that the scars left by unemployment and poverty will linger long after the economy recovers.
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have shown more interest in exploiting the divisions of opinion ushered in by the slump than in grappling with these problems. But this hard-hitting analysis provides a wake-up call that all should heed.

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further in the US than in the UK: one study found that for every 1,000 people in the population, the number moving at least 50 km each year was 46 in the US but only 15 in the UK (Larry Long, Migration and Residential Mobility in the United States, Russell Sage Foundation, Chicago, IL, 1988). 43. See Li, ‘Hard times, worklessness and unemployment’, p. 25, Figure 7 for full regional time-series of unemployment rates in both countries, for men and women separately. 44. Regional unemployment rates

always done ‘just isn't possible on these contracts … all of a sudden any sort of security is taken away from you’. With no sense of what is affordable, prudence is reduced to curtailing regular commitments – something she did by severing her internet connection. A case study, then, in how modern employment practices are conspiring to induce citizens to cut themselves off from the modern world. So how far does such a commodification of labour extend up the scale? If one looks narrowly at

she answers ‘No, apart from my grandparents’; she reports being too ‘nervous’ to strike up conversations in the park. She has no social life, but feels some solidaristic connection with a neighbour (whom she speaks to only rarely), since she knows that this neighbour also struggles, ‘because she came to ask to borrow some milk or sugar, and I have done the same’. Pressed to recall any help she might have received, ‘Kirsty’ fondly recalls that this neighbour ‘filled a cup up to the top for me,

they previously received.40 Population growth and other underlying pressures will prevent the actual budget from declining by anything like this proportion.41 It should also be said that benefits are holding up better in relation to wages, which have themselves been falling. But that notional drop of a quarter is probably the best guide to how it is going to feel for the families on the receiving end. Not all the retrenchments have been trained on the have-nots: the previously universal child

even if this would raise your taxes’. Just before the slump hit, in July 2007, 55% of Americans indicated that they would be willing to back this proposal; after the crisis, the figure dropped appreciably, to 47%.26 That 8 percentage point drop in support for generosity towards recessionary victims is very much in line with the overall drift in opinion that we have already reported. A recent analysis of this data in the American Political Science Review, however, establishes that among

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