REVIEW: ‘Men Without Work: Post-Pandemic Edition’ by Nicholas Eberstadt
"Violent crime, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, illiteracy, joblessness—these are some of the hallmarks of what has come to be called ‘the underclass,’" Isabel Sawhill wrote in a 1989 Public Interest essay. "Everyone has a theory, but no one really knows why the social fabric of certain communities has deteriorated so badly."
Sawhill’s words came at a turning point in the history of social policy. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, all of the enumerated rates hit disturbing highs, driven by communities of concentrated disadvantage—home of the "underclass." The richest nation in the history of the world discovered that alongside wealth came new pathologies, ones which once-ascendant liberal meliorism seemed unable to address, and indeed was likely exacerbating. The conservative policy renaissance of the 1980s and ’90s, in turn, was largely about providing alternative approaches, particularly by reforming the government programs which, conservatives argued, were producing the underclass phenomenon in the first place.
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