Our Kids

The American Dream in Crisis

Putnam begins with his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. The vast majority of those students — "our kids" — went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have had harder lives amid diminishing prospects. Putnam tells of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich and poor kids from cities and suburbs, drawing on a formidable body of research done just for this book.

386 pages. ©2015.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted July 27, 2022


The book is readable and I appreciated the individualized characters reflecting the individualized experiences; however, I found some of the authors opinionated statements (i.e. statements such as "failed parenting") to be unnecessary. Also, there were some phrases used to reflect "shared" thought of certain time periods but the phrases reflected opinions of the dominant culture and not those of marginalized communities. For example, McGuffey's Reader (1843) claiming "weath, honor, usefullness and happiness" was open to all...when in reality, not for slaves or women or the disabled... I think this book offers an invitation for readers to consider perspectives, alternate experiences of shared events and the many factors at play in our quest toward equality for all with special consideration of the influence of education.


Review posted March 4, 2022


Good description of what is happening for kids, families, and communities

Kate A. Wilkinson

Review posted December 11, 2021


Excellent. Sobering message for all of us.


Review posted November 23, 2021


This book will make you stop and think. Perfect for the times we are in right now.


Review posted May 10, 2021


I thought I had already completed the review... I really enjoyed the book...very thought provoking! Thank you!


Review posted February 3, 2021


Tremendously moving account of a lost generation of kids who have been denied the opportunity to earn a good life. As a baby boomer this really opened my eyes. Putnam finishes with a program of renewal that deserves attention in every capitol in the country.


Review posted January 25, 2021


Very thought provoking book. I couldn't put it down and read it very quickly. I loved the stories of real people throughout. Highly recommend.


Review posted December 11, 2020


What an amazing read! As a first generation college graduate it was interesting to see that I was not alone in my feelings while at school. As a person of color, sometimes we think we are alone and that we don't belong or don't deserve a seat at the table. I hope that other educators read this book and gain a better understanding of what we (POC) go through and how they can provide us with equal opportunities. No one should be dismissed because of the color of their skin or their zip code. Several of the people in this book pursued higher education because someone believed in them. If students have the will to learn, who are we to take that away from them? The world will be a better place when we ALL believe in each other.


Review posted November 19, 2020


Acknowledges the profound differences between this generation and past generations and how that affects the fabric of communities and developmental context in which children learn and grow.


Review posted August 12, 2020


Definitely took a little to get into, as this book is a harder read. In depth and good to learn from. When I have a chance I will most definitely read it again.


Review posted August 1, 2020


Good read


Review posted June 13, 2020


Very informative. Great read.


Review posted April 6, 2020


Wonderful book to read. Lots of insightful information. A must-read.


Review posted March 26, 2020


Amazing read, and insight.


Review posted October 25, 2019


I took a lot of time to read this book. It very clearly describes the opportunities available to families of wealth, and adversely, the lack of opportunities for families with economic challenges. The author uses both personal histories of families and hard data to illustrate the discrepancies between those who have and those who have not. The book was a real eye opener for me.


Review posted October 17, 2019


This book was very insightful and gave me alot to think about. Thank you


Review posted September 30, 2019


Mr. Putnam gives a concise, thorough, well researched view on the opportunities and potential that society offers the current generation of children. His writing is clear and easily digestible, his narrative is apparent throughout, and he works to provide balance as possible. Overall, I very much appreciated this work and would recommend it to anyone seeking a better understanding of the current stressors / opportunities which society imposes upon youth.


Review posted September 29, 2019


The main idea that I got from this book is that there is a huge difference in the living standards between the financially secure families and the poor families even though they live just a few miles apart. There were many stories shared about how children of poor families have a much harder time gaining a good education, well paid jobs and achieving a happy family life than the children in richer families.

KayCee Weeks

Review posted August 9, 2019


Very interesting read.


Review posted July 18, 2019


This is a great books that gives good insight on the american dreams of people.


Review posted July 9, 2019


This book was an easy read .. obviously kids from upper class seem to have a better education than lower class. Parents with an education seem to be able to "guide" their child through the school system . The cycle of poverty tends to be generational ..I enjoyed how stories were included to be able to see the difference and understand the data . I would be curious to see updated data


Review posted May 23, 2019


This is a wonderful book--- full of great statistics on the change in culture in the past 50 years, but also told in a personal way that compels us all to take shared ownership of our community. I wish I could share this with everyone in my town! Wonderful!


Review posted May 11, 2019


This book took me a while to read. Very interesting and unique. Not for everyone but it is very important information to take in.


Review posted May 3, 2019


Interesting book about a relevant subject.


Review posted April 24, 2019


This book starts out with myths and realities of the American Dream. I like how he backs up his statements with facts, figures, and stories of actual people. With the growing opportunity gap more and more folks do not interact with folks who are different than them and can't understand the experiences of the the poor. He even uses examples of my current town Bend, Or.


Review posted April 16, 2019


a good book but starts a bit slow

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Review posted April 3, 2019


This is a very interesting and powerful analysis of how the American society has changed in the past two generations. The author examines in depth the current situation of the country with sound examples and concise words. It is clear (no surprise of course) that children born into disadvantage have diminishing prospects. This book is an essential and thoughtful reading demonstrating how social initiatives and new investment to improve child outcomes go a long way and make children successful.


Review posted March 3, 2019


This book has a lot of information and I think it is slow to start. I was not excited to pick it up and read further but I did and found it to be worthwhile. The stories included were engaging. The story of the interviewer and how the interviews were done was also engaging. I know some people who are of the opinion that anyone can "pull themselves up by the bootstraps and be successful." I will suggest that those people read this book.


Review posted January 18, 2019


This was an important and well written sociological account of American culture and the struggle of current and future American generations. Putnam draws on a lot of in-depth research to explain how the concept of the American dream has dwindled to something that is much more a fantasy than a reality for today's generations of young Americans. Powerful and yet, ominous.


Review posted January 11, 2019


I now understand why so many of the community leaders that I respect insisted that I read "Our Kids." Putnam offers clinical and anecdotal research explanations for the increasing disparity among communities, particularly within different social classes. His storytelling brings the research to life. After presenting a challenging portrayal of the challenges American youth face, he provides hope and relief with several approachable, concise and immediate actions that can begin to repair some of the social decline.


Review posted January 6, 2019


Well worth the read especially working with youth in an underserved rural community. Inequality of opportunity is relevant today, the question becomes 'how do we solve it?'


Review posted November 7, 2018


I really enjoyed this book and the insight from Putnam. He has done his research and provides many different family scenarios that will hopefully open your eyes to the challenges or kids are facing today.

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Review posted November 7, 2018


This book is a great representation of some problems we should seek to remedy. Definitely a good read for anyone interested in the socioeconomic state of our country, as well as how that has changed and may differ from what we grew up knowing to be true.


Review posted October 23, 2018


very important book to be read. Loved this book and gave me great insight.


Review posted October 8, 2018


Very good book with a lot of information with the crisis the children are in these days.


Review posted August 20, 2018


The author makes a compelling argument for further education. He clearly lays out a comparison of the advantaged vs disadvantaged and indicates the likely direction of population and economic change. This served very well to explain the existing environment and predict the future. I would have liked more discussion on potential policy changes and reform, but this boook remained on the factual (not hypothetical/theoretical) end of the spectrum.

Lori Lull

Review posted July 24, 2018


This author did a nice job of weaving stories together with facts and figures. The topic was useful to learn and useful to me in my roles as a community member, non profit volunteer, and parent.


Review posted July 10, 2018


Robert D. Putnam clearly put a lot of effort into researching the different ways that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are at greater risk than their affluent peers. Each chapter is dedicated to a significant factor and within the chapter described how the factor impacts the child's overall success. Including interviews with children and families that represent both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum was ingenious and truly brought to life the actual disparities present in the United States today. Would definitely recommend to others interested in how some children are at higher risk than others when it comes to socioeconomically succeeding.


Review posted June 18, 2018


I very much enjoyed reading about the sociology of our world and the changes that have occurred over time. Interesting read.


Review posted June 9, 2018


This book was great for both reflection and insight for new hope.


Review posted June 6, 2018


This is a book dense with data and also narrative about the way kids used to grow up. The narrative is nice because it keeps the reader interested. The data is a bit depressive and necessary if we're to understand the challenges of not only the changes in generational economies, but also value systems resulting from these economic and community dynamics.


Review posted May 23, 2018


This book was well written and seemed thoroughly researched. It was eye-opening for me because I hadn't been paying much attention to how class effects everything. I enjoyed reading it though and I am feeling more educated than I was before.


Review posted May 12, 2018


A current examination of the socio-economic status of young students in modern America. A must read for educators.


Review posted April 27, 2018


The information in this book, both the data and the stories, really pulls together the information many of us know and hear but most often in bits and pieces. The compilation is quite a sobering realization of where we are at this point in time in the United States and, honestly, in many developed countries. In a way, it lights a fire for those of us in the helping profession and it serves as a reminder of what we're fighting against. But it also felt very overwhelming for me to read after spending countless hours trying to be a part of the solution while still seeing these gaps. As a parent, I find myself in the middle ground. Not affluent or poor, not a PhD or a dropout, rather a married mother of four working full time and attending school while my husband is full-time at home, I feel a sense of multiple worlds described in this book. I am still digesting this powerful depth of information and will certainly need a few more reads to feel satisfied I've not missed anything. I recommend this book for any adult, but especially for teens heading out into the world who want to make an impact on the next generation and take a look at their own views on status and the impact it has on society.


Review posted April 24, 2018


I am a college student in Oregon, reading this book as part of a requirement for one of my classes. I tend to get distracted easily when reading books unless they are attention grabbers, and this book is an attention grabber! The way the author ties real life experiences with stats, makes the book fun to read AND learn at the same time!


Review posted April 24, 2018


Really engaging read. Puts the future for our children in perspective.


Review posted April 11, 2018


An interesting reflection on the growing opportunity gap for Our Kids. I especially enjoyed the chapter focused on Bend, of course. Thanks for the cool book!


Review posted April 10, 2018


I liked the use of Case Studies mixed in with heartbreaking stories. Hits you with the truth we are currently facing in this country in regards to equal opportunity.

Holly Denman

Review posted March 27, 2018


Our Kids reminds me of Charles Murray's "Coming Apart". I didn't like it as well as Bowling Alone. The discussion of welfare read like a litany of excuses. "If we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always got." 60 years later we are getting what ee always got. On the plus side Putnam does a good job examining the family, community, school and the support network. The upper classes are moving forward with ease, while the lower classes and the poor are trapped in a world of violence, debt, and lack of resources. Even their social networks lack the kinds of weak ties that allow rich kids’ parents to make a phone call for them. enjoyed Putnam's other books so I wanted to enjoy this one too. I far preferred Murray's Coming Apart, and Sowell's Intellectuals and Society.


Review posted March 21, 2018


Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids” does an excellent job of telling individual stories of the American poor. These stories encourage insight and empathy with the constraints that inhibit equal opportunities for all Americans. Among the constraints are family and parenting problems, troubled neighborhoods, bad schools, and lack of sufficient quality job opportunities. But these constraints are illustrated through individual stories more than through the usual social science data presentation.

Cathy Hurowitz

Review posted March 20, 2018


The American Dream is in crisis. Those of us working on the front lines with students see this first hand. We see the the hopelessness that has somehow invaded our society. This book shows the reality of our kids across the country. Especially poignant was the story of the Oregon family. This book is a must read for anyone working with students and families in difficult situations. I have gained a powerful understanding that has altered my perception of those I serve. Thank you.

Christi A Clark

Review posted March 11, 2018


I found this book a bit hard to read. Maybe too academic. Do agree our kids are in crisis. Sad!!!


Review posted November 28, 2017


Amazing book about our families in America! I would recommend this book to all NON educators. It shares the issues facing the family structure in our country. Educators from the Principal to the secretary to the custodian should read this book to encourage them that their jobs are really important to our next generation.


Review posted November 22, 2017


Really great overview of his research and how systems continue the class divide.


Review posted October 2, 2017


this was an eye opening account of what future generations have in store. i would recommend to a friend.


Review posted September 28, 2017


This book most assuredly puts the long held belief in the American Dream for Everyone in question. Putnam does a great job at innermixing life stories with data that makes you question the very corner stones of the American public education standards and practices. This book was both eye opening and captivating.

Sheryl M

Review posted September 11, 2017


I think that the author illustrates many studies on the subject and outcomes from the socioeconomic divide in our current culture. I do believe it "takes a village" and even more important not only to raise a child but to raise parents and families. I would be interested to follow how others put this data to use and solutions to helping create the change necessary for our kids from low income backgrounds.


Review posted August 7, 2017


Once again, Putnam provides insight into the shifting trends and evolution of modern America. "Our Kids" sheds light on the disparities faced between affluent and impoverished youth as well as how these disparities manifest in the areas of education, family life, and future prospects. This is a great read for anyone wishing to work with today's youth, to get a glimpse into the struggles faced by America's teenagers every day.


Review posted July 27, 2017


I wish I liked this book more than I did. The stories of the families set up a dichotomy between the poor and rich in parenting which bothered me. On the other hand, some of the suggestions for what can be done were insightful and useful, such as making sure social supports were maintained, mentoring of youth, and not blaming schools. I appreciate the extensive research that went into the book and the footnotes.


Review posted May 31, 2017


Robert Putnam did a great job of illustrating the divides between have and have-not kids, focusing on aspects beyond money such as parenting styles, neighborhoods, schools, and community supports. He reiterated several times that the wealth gap has grown within racial demographic groups, most notably when he discussed Atlanta: "metro Atlanta seems on its way to encompassing three cities, two of them prosperous and two of them black." That sentence stuck out to me as an example of how racial segregation continues to divide people, but now income segregation divides the black community. Putnam utilized recent research on scarcity to talk about parent's bandwidth rather than blaming a culture of poverty for bad parenting, and also talked about the role community and schools play (or don't) in helping kids get away from home. I happened to be watching season 4 of The Wire at the same time as reading the chapter on schools and in the show, one of the teachers says Wednesday is the best day because it's the farthest the kids get from the weekend and whatever is happening at home. I found myself comparing my personal experience to the students in Putnam's case studies to figure out where I fit. I definitely grew up in "the immigrant" neighborhood (my hometown was so ridiculously redlined, although I didn't realize it as a child) and among other families who were a mix of blue and white collar, mostly employed regularly, and mostly aspiring to a middle class lifestyle. We could safely walk to school, we had a park nearby, and neighbors looked out for each other's kids. In a sense I experienced the "our kids" mentality growing up. However, my high school was poor, and we had armed narcotics officers patrolling the campus, there were frequent fights, kids were using drugs, and worst of all, we had almost no college recruiters on campus in the entire four years. We did have military recruiters once a week, and recruiters from for-profit universities. Somehow by the late 90s when I was in high school, my community shifted from "our kids" to "they're not my problem." I remember feeling like applying for colleges outside of our local schools was some impossible feat, and having no one to guide me, either at school or at home. I can only imagine what it was like for the kids whose parents had never been to or aspired to any college. This book left me wondering, how can we get to a mindset of all kids are "our" kids? How, as a community member, can I help youth get the opportunities they need? What are my points of intervention, when I don't come into regular contact with kids through my work or personal life? What can I do to make my community better so that the young people whose lives intersect with mine have a better chance at success, however they choose to define it? It's not as simple as looking back to the past, because as one African-American classmate of Putnam's said, "Your then was not my then, and your now isn't even my now."


Review posted October 25, 2016


Really great book, the best was reading Child Development;What We Are Learning. Great to see how we expanded our understanding of how younger children experiences and socioeconomic influences.


Review posted October 17, 2016


This is a very eye opening account of different lives from the school, it is funny how different people choose different path's.


Review posted October 3, 2016


This book was very readable and engaging as the author jumped back and forth between stories of a variety of families and the research and statistics they represented. Much of the research was disturbing to realize how great the gap has become, my background growing up would have put me at an extreme disadvantage if I had been born when my children were . I would have liked to have had more elaboration on how to move towards narrowing the gap.


Review posted September 27, 2016


This was a sobering read. Like so many things in life, success comes down to equal opportunity. It's a tough topic, but I didn't feel too downtrodden after I finished it. I passed it along to my best friend, who is an Oregon public school teacher.


Review posted September 15, 2016


The author or the book was able to take different family structures, financial differences, location of schools, external support differences which affects a child in the most profound way. Robert Putnam demonstrates the in depth look at internal and external barriers and strengths. It was a much needed approach to interested readers of what affects our youth today. As a community what can be done to make the playing field easier to help develop achievers both emotionally and educationally?


Review posted September 2, 2016


This book shows the importance of peer mentors and students having someone in their lives that they are exposed to that they can see the possibilities that life offers.


Review posted August 3, 2016


A must read... very insightful and thought provoking.


Review posted June 7, 2016


Very interesting perspective on the changes in culture that adversely effect education in our country. The book does describes an interesting perspective as it relates to the decline of a culture, as has happened to so many cultures in history prior to the United States.


Review posted June 3, 2016


Great book that brings to light the issues we face in our society today. Highly recommended.

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Review posted May 20, 2016


Robert Putnam does a wonderful job describing the problems of today's children, and I'm hopeful that it will inspire many to put aside other issues and begin to put our children first.


Review posted May 18, 2016


I found the book right on with the facts and what we need to do as nonprofits and throughout the country.


Review posted May 12, 2016


Very good book with lots of useful information.


Review posted March 31, 2016


I love Putnum's approach and study to the changing of American communities and children. This book was right on the mark. I look forward to more from his perspective.

Jackie LaBonte

Review posted February 29, 2016


This book sheds some light on kids growing up in America today. Comparing kids from diverse neighborhoods and parenting backgrounds etc. A lot of data but I enjoyed the personal stories best.


Review posted February 28, 2016


I will admit that it was hard reading Mr. Putman’s book. Not because of any flaws in his writing or research, but in the stark portrayal of a diminishing American dream. The fracturing of the economy, politics and culture remind me of staring at a broken windshield and wondering if anyone survived. My hope for everyone's future is that policy makers can come together across all divisions in society to put aside differences and look at the hope offered in some of his solutions.


Review posted February 17, 2016


In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert Putnam presents the case that the class-gap in America is widening, and has been for some time, due to a number of factors. We are shown vignettes in a number of communities across the country, including Atlanta, GA, Orange County, CA, and Bend, OR, among others. The vignettes mostly contrast two families whose children are beyond high school age, but not yet in their 30's. With each set of families, Putnam attempts to contrast the class-gap by choosing families of the same race. The vignettes, by no means exhaustive, are backed by more extensive research that is explained in the last chapter. Graphs are used liberally, but clearly, to show, a "scissoring" of opportunity between those in the "upper-middle class" and the "lower class" (each defined, not by wealth, but by education): many of trends that he presents show a lowering in frequency -- of family dinners, for instance-- but we see a trend of even less frequency in the lower class, hence the scissor effect. Overall, Our Kids is well written. The stories are emotional and touching, but not in a manipulative way. The writing is easy to read and engaging, with enough use of data to be convincing that there is a widening class-gap in America. What we do with that knowledge, remains to be seen.


Review posted January 26, 2016


Putnam's books are always supported by solid research. Timely in this election year when inequality has become a major issue.

Nora Harrison

Review posted January 18, 2016


Great combination of data and interviews that tells a troubling tale. Well researched. Well written. Even better than Putnam's other best-seller, Bowling Alone.


Review posted December 29, 2015


As a parent, a little frightening. As a member of the human services workforce, very motivating. Too few people see our children as what they are, and this book served as a powerful reminder.


Review posted December 23, 2015


The personal stories of young adults and robust statistics provided in this book were so captivating I had a difficult time putting it down. The book provides information that was both relevant and easy to relate to in terms of the widening opportunity gap for kids from different social (educational) levels. The main take-away points the book emphasizes are there are many potential solutions both locally and nationally. I personally have been inspired to make more of an intentional commitment to be involved in mentoring children in my community and be an advocate to remove pay-to-play fees for extracurricular activities. An enlightening and inspiring read!

Gelindo L. Ferrin

Review posted November 19, 2015


An excellent exploration of why so many our kids are in poverty. Great introductory stories of individual circumstances and resolutions. Excellent charts and analysis of why our kids are in such dire straights. Good explanations of solutions and the probabilities of success.


Review posted November 19, 2015


Robert Putnam does an excellent job of capturing what is happening with our young people today compared to past generations in an entertaining way through real life stories.


Review posted November 18, 2015


Very insightful with ubber amounts of data to back the authors claims. I enjoyed the push for extracurricular and hands-on activities for low-income students. His recommendations seem to piggyback the Development Assets philosophy espoused by the Search Institute.


Review posted November 17, 2015


I have recently been elected as president of the local Navy League council and "Our Kids" has been very helpful in my effort to energize the activities of the Navy League Sea Cadet program. Some of the members of our Sea Cadet program live in the Rogue Valley areas where programs for growth are limited.


Review posted November 14, 2015


Another great read by Putnam. In essence, to rebuild our communities, we must address that inequalities exist -- inequalities of income and wealth and of opportunity and social mobility. There is a growing disparity between upper and lower classes, which affects parenting, families, education, and the broader community. The book is appropriately titled. As an individualistic culture, America has mostly been about "my" and perhaps, we can do better by focusing on "our." Although I remember discussing many of these concepts during my sociology classes in undergrad, there was still a lot to chew on in this book. For example, the author makes a good point about how single parent families rose with imprisonment rates. While correlation is not causation, I work with a lot of families in the child welfare system who are poor and who have at least one parent in prison. In the state of Oregon, women in prison have far more opportunities (take a look at Coffee Creek's list of programs, for example) than men. Even so, people with felonies have a hard time finding employment and housing. In Jackson County, It's not difficult to understand that people turn to criminal activities and substance abuse because they lose hope. Clients in Jackson and Josephine County have an especially hard time finding housing. It's not uncommon for them to be on the HUD waiting list for months or years and when they finally have a voucher in hand and begin their search for housing, which is time-limited, they face the fact that affordable housing is not available. I also agree that money should be poured into schools, but being that birth-3 and even birth-5 is a critical period of development, perhaps our country would do well to pour more money into childcare, preschool, and programs such as Head Start. From personal experience, I have also seen how poorer schools have experienced disciplinary problems. While completing my MSW in Phoenix, I had the privilege of being a school social work intern at an elementary school that served over 1,000 students, many who were low-income and who qualified for McKinney-Vento. I was shocked to find that students were sent to the principal on a regular basis. Third grade students faced in-school and out-of-school suspensions and I questioned these decisions because we were essentially sending children home to play video games all day. One student with autism was made to eat in the noisy school cafeteria and was eventually expelled from school because his behaviors were unmanageable, but the school was not accommodating his needs. It couldn't because they were trying to maintain order in a chaotic environment and their excuse was that this child was interfering with the learning and safety of others. While programs such as Teach for America attempt to remedy such issues, we have a systemic problem of teachers not being paid well and they manage a large number of students with little help and often dip into their own pockets to purchase supplies for their classrooms. We can do better. Rather than turning down our noses to the lowly paid workers in society, perhaps we can have a little more compassion, treat them with respect, and acknowledge that they deserve a piece of the American Dream, too.


Review posted October 29, 2015


Great read...the kids are the future...need to make sure they can live their dream

Pamela Ruddock

Review posted October 19, 2015


Although we all know that the American Dream has changed, it's amazing to see just how much it's changed. Also to see the widening gap in upper class to those living in poverty. Sure was an eye opener.


Review posted September 16, 2015


Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Robert D. Putnam New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015 387 pages Weaving statistical analysis with stories from families all across the economic spectrum Mr. Putnam makes a compelling case for the danger that income inequality poses for ‘our kids.’ Drawing on his own experiences growing up in Port Clinton, Ohio, and his classmates he illustrates the growing divide between the haves and have-nots and the impact this inequality has on succeeding generations. Interspersing interviews with upper class families and not-so-upper class families Putman illustrates differences between families. For example, he cites research that indicates children of well-off parents hear some 19 million more words than children of working-class parents. The statistics he presents clearly illustrate a growing divide in our country. The interviews and statistics illustrate that the divide is not primarily about racial differences, though racial issues are still prevalent. He notes in particular the continuing neighborhood segregation than has been part of our social fabric for the past half-century. Our neighborhoods, he writes, have a pronounced impact on our kids primarily during infancy and later adolescence. Of particular interest to me were the comments about religious influences and the role of the public schools in failing to take positive action about the growing inequality. First, using statistics and anecdotal information Mr. Putnam writes, “poor families are generally less involved in religious communities than affluent families.” This impacts childhood development in a variety of ways. Research indicates that young people involved in religious activities are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and they tend to have better academic scores than those children who are not involved in religious activities. Second, the public school system comes under scrutiny by Mr. Putnam, an educator himself. The issues challenging public schools are complex and often difficult to untangle. Neighborhood sorting, i.e. segregation, continues and creates unequal schools which result in radically different outcomes for students. Putnam writes, “there’s no denying that rich and poor kids in this country attend vastly different schools nowadays.” He notes that experts indicate that school funding has no appreciable impact on student performance. The most important factors in student performance are the things the student brings with him/her into the school: income level, the parenting skill of parents, neighborhood influences, and funding for extra-curricular activities. The book closes with a chapter devoted to suggesting solutions, or as he writes “a menu of complementary approaches that have some collective promise of changing our current course.” The suggestions make for interesting reading. However, most of them involve at one level or another the redistribution of wealth. He writes, “[S]imply providing relatively small amount of additional cash to porr families can improve the achievements of their kids at school….” Where will that cash come from? He suggests extending the Earned Income Credit and existing child tax credits. But to extend those credits means that someone else has to pick up to slack. Who might that be? He also suggests that schools make significant investments in student guidance counselors. Given current school budgets, at least in Oregon, that might require letting core subject teachers go in order to hire guidance counselors. Ultimately as the statistics and anecdotes remind us, the single most influential aspect of student achievement is not the income gap but the ability of parents to spur their kids on to greater achievement and the ability of communities to foster an environment that is more conducive to providing family stability. Indeed, our kids need more than we often are providing. Steve Schenewerk


Review posted September 11, 2015


A good look at how class differences affect opportunity (as well as many other related factors) for kids. It's also very clear that it isn't a single problem, but something that needs to be changed systemically and in many realms (family, school, community, etc.). Definitely relates to Siskiyou County and the changes of the last few decades.


Review posted August 17, 2015


Great book about the trials of childhood poverty and the impact on early learning...A must read!!!


Review posted July 20, 2015


A compelling look at the widening opportunity gap between rich and poor children and the consequences for America. The interviews with the children and parents were very illuminating and this is a book that leaves you with much to think about. The author also includes suggestions as to how we might address this growing inequality.

Mr. Bizjak

Review posted April 27, 2015


This book could not have arrived at a better time. Currently, I am teaching "Of Mice and Men." I was able to lift excerpts from this book, and place them directly with Steinbeck's story. It was great to see how well the kids interacted with both texts. Several students began to dig deeper into the idea of the American Dream and whether it exists. The population I teach want to believe that the American Dream is alive and well; however, the disparities that they see daily makes them struggle with keeping the hope alive. Putnam's "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" muses on the stark reality of the "haves" and "have-nots" in society. Initially, I took that very idea and incorporated into my "To Kill a Mockingbird" unit. Putnam does an excellent job of addressing the issue of disparities among all families, not just the under-served and underrepresented people in American society today. This is a must read for anyone who wants to effect change in and out of the academic arena.