The Forgotten Americans

An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation

Isabel Sawhill

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A sobering account of a disenfranchised American working class and important policy solutions to the nation’s economic inequalities
One of the country’s leading scholars on economics and social policy, Isabel Sawhill addresses the enormous divisions in American society—economic, cultural, and political—and what might be done to bridge them. Widening inequality and the loss of jobs to trade and technology has left a significant portion of the American workforce disenfranchised and skeptical of governments and corporations alike. And yet both have a role to play in improving the country for all.
Sawhill argues for a policy agenda based on mainstream values, such as family, education, and work. Although many have lost faith in government programs designed to help them, there are still trusted institutions on both the local and the federal level that can deliver better job opportunities and higher wages to those who have been left behind. At the same time, the private sector needs to reexamine how it trains and rewards employees. This book provides a clear-headed and middle-way path to a better-functioning society in which personal responsibility is honored and inclusive capitalism and more broadly shared growth are once more the norm.

Isabel V. Sawhill is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and was recently named a Distinguished Fellow by the American Economic Association.

“Amid a flood of books on what ails the American middle class, The Forgotten Americans delivers what’s really needed now – smart, concrete policies that can begin to break the cycle of falling wages and rising inequality.”—Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company

“Isabel Sawhill is one of our leading scholars of poverty and inequality. Her book argues persuasively that lasting solutions to our economic problems must be consistent with American values, including the centrality of work, family, and education.”—Ben S. Bernanke, Former Chair of the Federal Reserve

"This important and engaging book establishes Belle Sawhill as a font of knowledge and good sense. Her keen analysis will help you understand why so many 'forgotten Americans' were attracted to Trump. Her astute recommendations will equip you with a list of things we could and should do better."—Alan S. Blinder, Princeton University, author of Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers when Economics and Politics Collide

“‘Radical centralism’ doesn’t sound like a recipe for appealing to our divided nation—until you read Belle Sawhill. In this trenchant new book, she puts work and its rewards at the core of fixing what ails us.”—Heather Boushey, Executive Director & Chief Economist, Washington Center for Equitable Growth

“If the country is heading to a new age of progressive activism, it will find no wiser guide than Isabel Sawhill. The agenda laid out in The Forgotten Americans is ambitious—in some ways even radical—but carefully considered and deeply informed."—David Frum, senior editor, The Atlantic

“Isabel Sawhill has always seen beyond today’s controversies to explore real solutions. Her new book addresses head on the impending cataclysm in our workforce brought on by the wide scale adoption of automation, AI, and other tech innovations. She proposes an agenda that directly addresses the concerns of middle-class families relying on values we can all endorse to improve their lives. At the heart of her agenda is the importance of work.”—John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado

“In this important book, Isabel Sawhill offers golden solutions to the desperate problems that underlie our national divide. Read this book, hand it to your neighbor, and send a copy to your politician of choice.”—Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

"Powerful."—W. Bradford Wilcox, Wall Street Journal

"Sawhill presents a long list of novel policies to help the forgotten Americans. What sets her policy parade apart is that she motivates all the proposals with her research which shows that economic success depends on family, education, and work."—Craig R. Roach, New York Journal of Books

“An impressive amount of fieldwork”—Steven Simon, Survival

Silver medal winner in the 2019 Axiom Book Awards, Economics category
ISBN: 9780300230369
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b/w charts & graphs