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The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke

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This groundbreaking exposé brings to light the surprising financial consequences of mothers going to work, and the precarious position of today's middle class.

More than two decades ago, the women's movement flung open the doors of the workplace. Although this social revolution created a firestorm of controversy, no one questioned the idea that women's involvement in the workforce was certain to improve families' financial lot. Until now.

In this brilliantly argued book, Harvard Law School bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren and business consultant Amelia Tyagi show that today's middle-class parents are suffering from an unprecedented and totally unexpected economic meltdown. Astonishingly, sending mothers to work has made families more vulnerable than ever before. Today's two-income family earns 75% more money than its single-income counterpart of a generation ago, but actually has less discretionary income once their fixed monthly bills are paid.

How did this happen? Warren and Tyagi provide convincing evidence that the culprit is not "overconsumption," as many critics have charged. Instead, they point to the ferocious bidding war for housing and education that has quietly engulfed America's suburbs. Stay-at-home mothers once provided a financial safety net if disaster struck; their move into the workforce has left today's families chillingly at risk. The authors show why the usual remedies-child-support enforcement, subsidized daycare, and higher salaries for women-won't solve the problem, and propose a set of innovative solutions, from rate caps on credit cards to open-access public schools, to restore security to the middle class.

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