In New Book, 'Bowling Alone' Author Examines Impact Of Economic Inequality On Kids

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Social scientist Robert Putnam at WBUR. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Social scientist Robert Putnam at WBUR. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

It's the American dream: no matter who you are, you can get an education, work hard, play by the rules and get ahead. That's the dream, anyway.

But, in recent years, the reality is increasingly defined by growing inequality. It's true across the country and here in Boston — a city with one of the highest rates of income inequality in America.

Robert Putnam argues that this has created a huge "opportunity gap" between rich kids and poor kids. He says, getting ahead is no longer an opportunity available to all, but instead, a kind of lottery. All you need to do is choose the right grandparents.

Robert Putnam is a social scientist and professor of public policy at Harvard. He's author of the bestselling book about America's decaying civic culture, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," which came out in the 1990s.

His latest book about American life looks at how a growing population of America's kids are cut off from stable families, good schools and the chance to move up the social ladder. It's a work of carefully researched social science — and an appeal to America's moral conscience. It's called "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis."


Robert Putnam, social scientist and professor of public policy at Harvard. His new book is "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis." He tweets @RobertDPutnam.


Brookings Institution: Inequality And Social Mobility: Be Afraid

  • "The rungs are not only widening in terms of income inequality. There are growing class-related gaps in family structure, parenting styles, school test scores, college attendance and graduation, and neighborhood conditions. Much of the evidence can be found in a series of 'scissor charts' in Robert Putnam's book, 'Our Kids.'"

The New York Times: ‘Our Kids,’ By Robert D. Putnam

  • "If rock star status seems improbable for a numbers-crunching academic — well, it is. But by focusing on sports leagues and volunteer work, 'Bowling Alone' let liberals highlight social needs without conjuring big government, while conservatives could signal compassion without delving too deeply into racial or class injustice."

This segment aired on May 27, 2015.


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