THE ACCORDION FAMILY by Katherine S. Newman


Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition
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A look at the impact of globalization on young people finds intriguing differences in family relationships and living patterns in selected countries around the around.

A sociologist who has written widely on poverty and the working poor (The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America,  2007, etc.), Newman (dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University) interviewed some 300 families in the United States, Italy, Spain, Japan, Denmark and Sweden to assess this impact. She found that global competition has had a profound effect on young adults in the West and in Japan who find themselves facing extended unemployment, forcing many to live at home with their parents. The resulting formation of multigenerational households, or "accordion families," is a phenomenon that intrigues Newman, and her interviews reveal significant differences in how it is regarded in different societies. In addition to the personal stories, the author provides charts and tables that starkly illustrate the changes. In Japan, parents with adult children in the household tend to blame themselves for their grown offspring's failure to launch, whereas Spanish parents tend to blame the government for abandoning the young generation to economic forces. Italian parents take a much more positive view, welcoming the presence of live-in adult children. In the United States, parents seem willing to house and support adult children if they are working for advanced degrees or at unpaid internships that will further a professional career. The most striking difference, however, is in the Scandinavian countries, where strong welfare systems support the independence of young people with subsidized housing, free education and unemployment insurance. A consequence of delayed adulthood is that the young are not marrying and producing the next generation, a problem especially severe in Japan. Newman sees three possible solutions: increasing immigration, increasing taxes to maintain a safety net for an aging population or cutting back on the safety net.

Clear presentation of a growing problem, its causes and consequences and the choices societies make. 



Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8070-0743-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2011


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