Financial Crisis in American Households

About the Book

Financial Crisis in American Households presents a data-intensive exploration of American household finances. It argues that financial insecurity and under-savings are partly driven by American capitalism’s failure to ensure that regular people can afford quality basic essentials.

The book was published in 2017 by Praeger.

Read the announcement of the free electronic edition here.

You can download a copy of the whole book in your preferred digital format: PDF, ePub, Kindle, or MOBI.

NOTE: Praeger has not released the book to the public domain.  It has only granted me the right to distribute this copyrighted material in electronic format.  If you wish to redistribute this book, link to the copies being distributed on this site.

Teaching a Course or Module on Household Finances?

Instructors!  Click the links below for single chapter PDFs, chapter summaries, and media for your slides.

More Household Finance Content


Chapter 1: Introduction. An overview to the book and the societal choices it suggests. Visit the chapter page. Download the introduction chapter PDF here.

Chapter 2: A Snapshot of US Household Finances. A look at the details of what America’s poor, middle class, and upper class earn, own, and owe. Visit the chapter page.  Download the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 3: Financial Insecurity. Assessing the prevalence and depth of financial insecurity using U.S. household finance microdata. Visit the chapter page.  Download the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 4: The Big Picture. A look at the broader historical context in which US household finances have been deteriorating. Visit the chapter pageDownload the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 5: Runaway Spending. A look at why Americans haven’t been tightening their belts in response to rising financial insecurity. Visit the chapter page.  Download the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 6: A Closer Look at Necessities. Spending on necessities is hurting household finances, but how necessary are these “necessities”? Visit the chapter pageDownload the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 7: A Look Abroad. America is not enjoying substantially better necessities for the large costs it imposes on U.S. families. Visit the chapter pageDownload the chapter PDF here.

Chapter 8: The Choice. A discussion of how Americans can respond to the pressures driving financial insecurity. Download the chapter PDF here.

In the Media

Helaine Olen (2016) “The United States of Debt” Podcast series from Slate

Peter Hogness (2014) “QC Sociologist: Where Our Money Goes” Clarion, November 26. Winner of New York Labor Communications Council: Best Editorial Column

Christopher R. Rugaber (2014) “Middle Class Squeeze: From Day Care to Health Care” Associated Press: Big Story. September 24.

Richard Salit and Alex Kuffner (2014) “Middle Class Squeeze: R.I. wages flatlining as workers struggle” Providence Journal. May 31.

Central Time (2014) “Middle Class Money Squeeze” Wisconsin Public Radio. May 12.

Carol Morello and Scott Clement (2014) “‘Happy Days’ no more: Middle-class families squeezed as expenses soar, wages fall” Washington Post, April 26.

Helaine Olen (2014) “Essay: Our Brains Aren’t to Blame for Our Financial Woes” Bloomberg. April 7.

Helaine Olen (2013) “Giving up coffee to balance the books: how many lattes to financial freedom?” The Guardian. August 13.