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Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It
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Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,832 ratings  ·  298 reviews

America is becoming a class-based society.

It is now conventional wisdom to focus on the wealth of the top 1 percent—especially the top 0.01 percent—and how the ultra-rich are concentrating income and prosperity while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant. But the most important, consequential, and widening gap in American society is between the upper middl

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Brookings Institution Press
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Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book. I knew I would hate it when I read Dr. Reeves' 10 Jun Sun NY Times article "Stop Pretending You're Not Rich".

I knew I would hate that Dr. Reeves would call me out for my efforts at gaming the system (529s, property, investments, parenting, university admissions, job referrals/networking) to ensure that my daughter would not fall out of the top quintile, regardless of how many times she might fail, despite our best efforts.

In all fairnes
At first Reeves’ argument, that the upper middle class should voluntarily give up their advantaged place in society, sounds virtuous, if a little unlikely. But gradually, listening to his arguments in this slim book of charts, graphs, and statistics, we remember what we don’t like about America: how our segregated neighborhoods bear little resemblance to what we see on the news every night. We sense a dislocation so strong we know it could come back to bite us, or more importantly, our children. ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Placeholder review

Some good observations and awful conclusions. I will write more later. But in the meantime I will note that this guy quotes the likes of Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame!) and implies that virtually anything people do to help their children is part of a malicious economic game. There's no room in his world for intrinsic values. His view of the world is one in which people only value pursuits insofar as they bring profit, in which people dropping millions to secure legacy
This book has been floating around my Twitter feed for a while, and after reading one of Kimmaytube’s threads about #DreamHoarding, I decided to give it a read. Like most Americans, talking about class differences and inequality is an abnormal, uncomfortable experience for me. However, as someone with socioeconomic privilege, it’s important to address these issues, and learn how I can push for change.

Personally, Richard Reeves’ work was helpful in that it clarified some hard-line facts about th
Aug 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a waste of time. In an attempt to write a book different from all the others on the shelf about inequality caused by the top 1%, the author presents weak arguments about why the "upper middle class" is the cause of inequality in the United States. In fact, the arguments presented lose traction when you take a moment to question the premise:

"The upper middle class is privileged"

The word "privileged" means to have special rights or immunities, often undeserved. But almost on the ver
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book. We need to talk more about the stickiness of class in America. This is a great start to that discussion. I think he could have talked a lot more about race in here because it’s actually the main example of dream hoarding—white flight and segregated schools lock in both advantage and disadvantage. It was an uncomfortable book to read too as a part of the privileged cohort. I don’t want my children to drop down a class, but apparently that’s what he says needs to happen. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-politics
This book is provocative, in the more specific meaning that it is very liable to provoke. For example, I have a friend from the upper middle class who claims distant acquaintance with Reeves, and said that Reeves is really a “one percenter”. The implication was that Reeves is trying dishonestly to pass as a member of the u.-m. class only to better toss brickbats and hand grenades on behalf of our society's genuine villains. (I don't think the accuser is correct, but I remained silent, as I am tr ...more
Bogi Takács
So far removed from my usual things to review that I won't do a full-length review of it, but it was interesting. In a nutshell: the author, a white, upper-middle-class American man*, makes the argument to his fellow white upper-middle-class Americans that they are not dealing with their privileges appropriately. (This means I'm also not the target audience... oh well.) Blaming the "1%" is a derailing tactic by upper-middle-class Americans - the upper 20%.

I think his most persuasive argument is
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eye-opening. Scary. Brave. Reeves lays out an unpopular and unvarnished truth about America's privileged class of which he and most of his readers (including me) are members. His sincere and thorough scholarship make for an interesting if uncomfortable read. ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with much of the argument, in particular about how the individual choices of the upper middle class contribute to opportunity hoarding. However, the ways in which inequality itself and the lack of a safety net contribute to the problem is largely ignored.
Lance Eaton
Reeves addresses something that I've seen for a while but had trouble naming. He shows in many ways how the upper-middle class is essentially pulling up the ladder of opportunity in our culture just as much as the elites are in the ways they make personal choices--often canceling out or undermining the opportunities that they were afforded to get to their current economic status. Reeve explores how the tearing down of policies within education, finance, and public policy had been stalwarts to he ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
The value of this book is more in the introspection Reeves encourages members of the upper middle class to undertake than the information. Most of the upper middle class intuitively know they are privileged to the expense to everyone below them, but most don't do anything about it. They like their 529 college savings plans, mortgage tax deductions, legacy admissions, internships, high performing suburban schools, and economically segregated neighborhoods. It makes them feel safe, protects their ...more

I mean, yes. “My intuition is that upper middle-class adults would be more supportive of redistributive policies and institutions if they were less certain of where their own children... were going to end up.”

This book does a good job explaining my visceral revulsion about so many things in my current life: low-density suburbs, well-funded public school foundations for individual districts, tax policies that disproportionately benefit the already-privi
It is no accident that I started this book the week that I moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, with the second highest median income in the US.

Anyway, the idea is that the too 20% should voluntarily give up some of their wealth/privilege/access to those below them on the economic ladder. Fine. I'll follow your lead.

Gripes a lot about legacy college admissions without really providing any examples besides Jared Kushner (I read a book with more examples in 2015) and doesn't like unpaid internships
Helen Jacoby
Reeves has a good point when he talks about how the top 20% (upper middle class) of the American population are getting more benefits than they deserve, and how this should change. However many of the data he presents are not new, and the policy proposals he offers are so large and varied that it's impossible to imagine them all being enacted in the near future. I agree with almost everything he says, but the argument could probably have been made in a nice long New Yorker article, rather than r ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dream Hoarders is one of those clarifying books I'm lucky to read every few years or so. It's not the 1% that's the problem, Reeves says, but the top 20% of society that's got most of the goodies and is barely aware of it. Great neighborhoods, great schools, tax advantages, even preferential access to internships ("affirmative action for the advantaged," writes Reeves)--all are zer0-sum assets that are effectively making the upper-middle class an hereditary caste and locking out the rest of Amer ...more
Probably accurate in describing a mechanism. Acknowledges that a key driver of the greater class mobility he's espousing calls for lowering the stakes of being not-upper-middle-class, that is, greater equality in wealth distribution. Also possibly a substantial shift of labour markets to create decent, well-paying, interesting jobs at different income levels (with, say, different tradeoffs of incomes, interestingness, free time, progression ladders, prestige, geographic mobility, etc, than what ...more
Cathryn Conroy
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating--provided you're a bit of a political/policy wonk. Written by Richard V. Reeves, who is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, a non-partisan, century-old think tank in Washington, D.C., the book's full title says exactly what this wonkiness is all about: "Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It."

The upper middle class is defined as the top 20 percent of earners in t
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent compilation of studies on the widening gap between the upper quintile of Americans by income (with some attention to wealth) and the lower four. Reeves rightly moves our focus from the 1% to the 20%. His suggestions are not bold enough for my taste--he seems to think preserving capitalism as is is fine as long as there's more upward and downward mobility. Why accept the system? Why not envision better? But as far as nailing who's got privilege and how we maintain it, fascinating mat ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
When I come across a book that purports to tell me that how well-to-do people act, I look to see whether I myself act this way. Reeves defines upper middle class to be those households with income over $120,000 per year. He then goes on to say that those “rich people” do things to ensure their kids continue to be rich people. Things like saving for college. Reading to them when they are young. Working to get them good internships. Ensuring they have good schools and teachers. This is the suburba ...more
Daniel Feldman
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Reeves makes a critical distinction between things like good schools and private music lessons, which are expensive but every parent should wish for, and "dream hoarding" which are opportunities that are necessarily scarce like internships and slots at top colleges. This is a valuable distinction, because otherwise he'd risk offending far too many parents who just want their kid to play the trombone and get A+s and don't see what's wrong with that. Dream hoarding is the real enemy, not just drea
Bill Carmean
I read this short book because Elliot recommended it. Also because I am attempting to become more informed about, and more capable of understanding, economics issues, not just because I find this stuff fascinating (which I do) but because it's so much fun for me to be able to engage in thoughtful dialogues with my kids about what is critically important to them.

This is a thoughtful book written by a thoughtful economist at Brookings. His argument is that the upper middle class in the USA (defin
Melissa Stacy
The 2017 nonfiction book, "Dream Hoarders: How the Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What To Do About It," by Richard V. Reeves, is a phenomenal read. I loved this book with such ferocious ardor, all I want to do now is hug the author for an eternity while screaming, "THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BOOK!!" Because I feel like this book saved my life.

I needed the words in this book. All my life, I've needed the words in this book. And now I have them.
Phillip Fernberg
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is for me one of the most effective conversation starters about social mobility I’ve read in a while. It focuses on a fact that for years has been consciously overlooked by both voters and policy makers. A fact that stands in the room like a naked ogre, blocking the door to a more decent and functional society, all the while glaring at us all and only asking that we acknowledge its indecency and escort it back to where it came from. That fact is that most of our persistent socioeconomi ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The important idea in the book is that it isn’t the 1% that’s the problem - it’s the upper 20% that are flourishing at the expense of others. I think that’s important, given the upper middle class tendency to view other people as the rich ones - it seems insane to even refer to the upper middle class in the US as a middle class of any kind, and Reeves is right that these families (our families) need to stop hoarding opportunities - we should be against exclusionary zoning, legacy admissions, unf ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
rich man walks into a bar and calls himself and his class out on their bullshit. good as hell up until the part where he starts spitting lukewarm legislative actions to solve the problem. when your first idea for change is to keep the Poors from having so many kids, ya blew it son. although improving access to contraception is always a good call, it does nothing to keep your friends from holing up in their gated neighborhood watched enclaves. apart from getting rid of zoning laws and legacy admi ...more
Kate Olson
This book was a great thinking piece for why the top 20% of the population (households earning over $120,000) are as much a problem in creating a classist society as are the top 1%. It was an uncomfortable read/listen, as it proposes solutions that would directly impact ME in a financially negative way, but I'm all for lifting those lower than I am, so I completely understand where he is coming from. All of the solutions are very high-level and policy-based, but for the lowly citizen, it can at ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, carefully-drawn, mostly moral argument about barriers to opportunity in America, many of which are erected by those who have "made it." Prose is accessible and personable, though repetitiveness is a problem. ...more
Michelle Tran
Jul 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I came in agreeing with the premise, but finished disagreeing with the policy proposals (as I don't feel like they go far enough in addressing inequality). Otherwise I found the book itself not very insightful. ...more
Madeleine Smith
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A not-so-flattering look in the mirror. This book shows how the upper-middle class can act and feel more entitled than any other. A fascinating read.
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23 likes · 6 comments
“When we hoard opportunities, we help our own children but hurt others by reducing their chances of securing those opportunities. Every college place or internship that goes to one of our kids because of a legacy bias or personal connection is one less available to others. We may prefer not to dwell on the unfairness here, but that’s simply a moral failing on our part. Too many upper middle-class Americans still insist that their success, or the success of their children, stems entirely from brilliance and tenacity; “born on third base, thinking they hit a triple,” in football coach Barry Switzer’s vivid phrase.” 2 likes
“What is driving the economic separation of the upper middle class? Short answer: wages and wives. Wages at the top have risen as a result of increased returns to human capital. Meanwhile, well-educated women have joined well-educated men at the top of the earnings ladder—and married them.” 1 likes
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