A New York Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2020
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year
A New Statesman Book to Read
From economist Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton, a groundbreaking account of how the flaws in capitalism are fatal for America's working class
Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row—a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year—and they're still rising. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, known for first sounding the alarm about deaths of despair, explain the overwhelming surge in these deaths and shed light on the social and economic forces that are making life harder for the working class. They demonstrate why, for those who used to prosper in America, capitalism is no longer delivering.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism paints a troubling portrait of the American dream in decline. For the white working class, today's America has become a land of broken families and few prospects. As the college educated become healthier and wealthier, adults without a degree are literally dying from pain and despair. In this critically important book, Case and Deaton tie the crisis to the weakening position of labor, the growing power of corporations, and, above all, to a rapacious health-care sector that redistributes working-class wages into the pockets of the wealthy. Capitalism, which over two centuries lifted countless people out of poverty, is now destroying the lives of blue-collar America.
This book charts a way forward, providing solutions that can rein in capitalism’s excesses and make it work for everyone.
Husband and wife economists Case and Deaton (The Great Escape) analyze the factors contributing to rising death rates among white, working-class Americans in this grim yet galvanizing account. Attributing much of the overall increase to suicides, drug overdoses, and alcoholic liver disease, Case and Deaton show that 158,000 people succumbed to such "deaths of despair" in 2017 ("the equivalent of three full 737s falling out of the sky every day, with no survivors"). They also note that the mortality rate among white men aged 45 54 without a bachelor's degree has increased 25% since the early 1990s, while decreasing 40% for those with a college diploma. Looking behind the numbers, Case and Deaton examine how solid, blue-collar jobs that could support a stable family life have been replaced by low-paying service industry jobs, contributing to wage stagnation; the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the opioid epidemic; and deficiencies in American health care ("a disgrace"). In a brisk final chapter, they outline possible reforms, including universal health care, wage subsidies, the loosening of patent protections to buoy business innovation and competition, and German-style apprenticeship programs as a college alternative. Complementing their candid prose with enlightening charts and graphs, Case and Deaton make the scale and immediacy of the problem crystal clear. This is an essential portrait of America in crisis. \n
Customer ReviewsSee All
A very thorough and compelling book
I really enjoyed reading this book. I’m not an economist, so the concepts and methods they described in the book weren’t familiar to me, but the authors took time to explain things. The book explored many other arguments and explanations before arriving at conclusions. It read more like an academic paper than an op ed, but was still understandable.
Familiar statistics make up the majority of this book. No new or innovative or practical solutions really offered. I was disappointed.