Today’s media are replete with statistics documenting the global economic crisis and the precipitous decline of the middle class. While these numbers reflect key indicators—financial markets, housing prices, unemployment, job creation and the cost of living—they often ignore their emotional and psychological impact. In her recently published book, Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times, Marianne Cooper, sociologist at the Clayman Institute and lead researcher for the book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, puts a very human face to these statistics as she describes the impact the economic crisis has had on the day-to-day reality of families caught in its emotional as well as economic grip. Cooper followed the lives of fifty Silicon Valley families, representing a broad range of income levels, who shared with her deep details not just on what they’re doing to survive, but also how they feel. Her resulting book offers an intimate look at the challenges facing modern families, and how they are coping with unprecedented levels of inequality and insecurity.
On September 9th, the Commonwealth Club of California INFORUM sponsored a conversation with Cooper and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org. Speaking to a packed audience in San Francisco, Cooper talked about the general sense of insecurity that is affecting everyone in our society today, the burdens women in particular are being called on to shoulder, what’s happening to “the American dream,” and what we need to do as a society to collectively address these new realities. Cooper’s work makes an invaluable contribution to the dialogue on the human costs of the recession.