One of the common problems with books about current events is that they may have a shelf-life. In the case of “Strapped: Why American’s 20- And 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead” by Tamara Draut, this appears to be the case. I should note that in this particular review I’m focusing on the 2005 edition that I read as opposed to the later 2007 edition which has some expanded content.
In “Strapped” Tamara Draut features seven chapters of which five are focused on the economy, one on political engagement, and the last one is a call for reform with suggestions. Since this book was written in the early 2000’s much of it is focused on Generation X, although Generation Y does get some mention from time to time. Unfortunately, the five chapters on the economy are also very much focused on the pre-Great Recession economy. As a result they have lost some of their relevancy or had some of the fundamentals change during the recession. The best example of this is the author’s treatment of credit card debt since many of the problems discussed were corrected with the passing of the Credit CARD Act of 2009. In some ways this means that the obsolescence of the book is a good thing since some of the problems have been resolved.
With regards to the other four chapters on the economy, unfortunately not much has changed. The examples also suffer the same problems that “Generation Debt” had in that readers may not be sympathetic. The author spends some time discussing student loan debt along with stagnant wages which were just exacerbated by the Great Recession. The high cost of housing also gets treatment and looking back on when the book was written we can see that some of that was due to the housing bubble that was developing, but even post-Great Recession the problem still largely remains. Finally, the author also focuses on the cost of raising children which continues to be a problem.
The remaining chapters are a bit of a mixed bag. The chapter on political engagement is a bit interesting since it is a look back on what the voting patterns were like before the Great Recession. The conclusions are likely irrelevant at this point in time since Generation X is now reaching middle age and associated changes in voting patterns. Generation Y voting patterns are briefly discussed, but at the time this book was written there really weren’t enough voting yet to really draw conclusions yet. Finally, the chapter featuring a call for reform has some interesting ideas, but they would need to be repacked for the current political climate to give them the time of day.
As a whole, the book wasn’t bad, but it does show its age. The writing style for this book is very journalistic so it does read more like an extended article in a magazine and while sources are provided for many of the figures provided, they are sourced at the back of the book. If you approach this book as a snapshot of things before the Great Recession then you might find it interesting, but unfortunately outside of that the changes in the economy means that it is likely too dated provide compelling arguments.