Economic impact of crime ripples through families

Dec. 4, 2013

Lawyers often see the criminal and civil courts as two separate entities, but for people caught up in the legal system, the problems often bleed from one arena into the other. Having a bad lawyer, or an overwhelmed one, can result in a felony conviction rather than a misdemeanor, or a plea deal rather than a trial. Those missed opportunities can have economic and social ripple effects that last far beyond any prison sentence.

Taxes, trade, public policy: Will the playing field ever be level?

Oct. 17, 2013

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele's 2012 book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream," chronicles how four decades of public policy shaped America's ongoing economic crisis. The New York Times bestseller, researched in part by Workshop staffers, will be released in paperback Oct. 22. The paperback edition includes the authors' new afterword, which takes a critical look at recent reports of economic recovery in the United States and its impact on the middle class.

Courts explore new ways to deal with heavy caseloads, overflowing jails


July 23, 2013

There is growing recognition that the current system of impossible caseloads, over-criminalized rule books and overflowing prisons is incredibly expensive, unsustainable — and avoidable. Legislatures and advocates are exploring how to shift some acts from criminal offenses to ticket-able ones. Organizers are teaming up with public defenders, bringing people power where money is short. And lawyers are trying to address the issues that led people into the justice system in the first place.

1 in 3 now families now 'working poor'

Feb. 15, 2013

“We like to think that people are poor in American because they don’t work,” said Brandon Roberts, manager of the Working Poor Families Project. But, he said, "Even though you are working, you have an increasing chance of being low-income or poor.” 

Colleges: A different route to the factory

Feb. 6, 2013

The United States has lost a third of its manufacturing jobs as companies seek to save costs and produce elsewhere. But a Brookings report argues the nation could excel again in manufacturing by changing its approach to engineering education. 

Depression-era program struggles to fill post-recession needs

Jan. 15, 2013

A little investment in a decades-old government program could help in the fight to get Americans back to work. This is a look at the U.S. Employment Service, a proactive response to high unemployment.


Safety concerns add to stress

Dec. 27, 2012

Workers at Momentive Performance Materials have what thousands of unemployed Americans want most: jobs that pay a decent wage.  



A new company takes over, a new reality sets in

Dec. 26, 2012

In the years since a private-equity firm took over Momentive, workers have seen contract fights, safety problems and slashed wages. This is the new face of stability in the American workplace. 

Home health-care workers still fighting for higher wages, better benefits

Dec. 26, 2012

Demand for home health-care workers is growing. But low wages and lack of benefits — including health care — contribute to the struggle many in the industry continue to face. 

Mississippi still poorest state

Sept. 20, 2012

Another Census report released Thursday shows Mississippi again is the poorest state in the country, but 21 other states and the District of Columbia report poverty rates above the national average.

The view from the ground: Seeds of recovery

Sept. 17, 2012

Hundreds of letters poured into the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer in response to the gripping story of economic woes told in the original America: What Went Wrong? series by Donald Barlett and James Steele 20 years ago. While letters today are submitted electronically and conversations are often are on cell phones, the feeling of economic despair sounds eerily familiar. Bill Cotter's letter is one in an occasional series about people who submitted their story to us over the many months that we have worked on our current project, What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream. The series led to Barlett and Steele's new, best-selling book, "The Betrayal of the America Dream," released in August.

Poverty rates unchanged

Sept. 12, 2012

Income is down and inequality is up, but the details are more nuanced and include the point that the poverty rate is flat. 

Restoring the American Dream

Aug. 19, 2012

What will it take to fix the nation's economic problems? Co-authors Barlett and Steele offer solutions, including limiting subsidized imports and insisting that foreign nations lower their barriers to U.S. goods.

The view from the ground: Economy is still weak

Aug. 17, 2012

Hundreds of letters poured into the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer in response to the gripping story of economic woes told in the original “America: What Went Wrong?” series by Donald Barlett and James Steele 20 years ago. While letters today are submitted electronically and conversations are had across cell phones, the feeling of economic despair sounds eerily familiar. Here is the first in an occasional series about people who submitted their story to us over the many months that we have embarked on a new project, “What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream.” The series also led to Barlett and Steele's new, best-selling book, "The Betrayal of the America Dream," released earlier this month.


Assault on the Middle Class

Aug. 5, 2012

"The Betrayal of the American Dream" is the story of how people in power put in place policies that enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath the middle class. 

Phantom Jobs

Aug. 4, 2012

America essentially invented outsourcing, but few outside the corporate world realized how rapidly it, along with other trade policies, would devastate employment across the middle class, as imports quickly overwhelmed exports, and workers were sacrificed on the altar of unrestricted free trade.


The search for manufacturing's future

June 19, 2012

Factory jobs declined by nearly half since the peak in 1979, when there were 21 million manufacturing workers. But employment grew in some states west of the Mississippi River.  


The U.S. economy reveals a complex picture

June 19, 2012

The economic story of the past 40 years stands in sharp contrast to earlier periods in American history, when an expanding economy brought broader prosperity. 

The Production Floor

June 14, 2012

Much has been said about jobs going overseas, but manufacturers are also finding trouble filling jobs available now. Even as manufacturing jobs have declined over decades, the economy has still grown, so why does manufacturing matter? What has been the impact of shifts in manufacturing?  

Manufacturing: How we collected the data

June 14, 2012

A description of how we collected and analyzed 40 years' worth of manufacturing employment data.

Manufacturing state by state, 1971-2011

June 14, 2012

Tracing the history of manufacturing employment since 1970, state-by-state: See our interactive and historical maps.

Mapping manufacturing

June 14, 2012

The story of the decline and changes in American manufacturing is both a regional picture and a national one. 

An uneven dream: African-Americans no strangers to unemployment

March 6, 2012

A lack of employment and economic security has put into flux prospects of the American Dream for the next generation. But crisis-level unemployment has persisted in black communities for decades. What's the solution? A look at a new report from the Economic Policy Institute and interviews with people on the front lines.

Super Tuesday: Will economy sway voters?

March 6, 2012

States voting today are pictures of economic challenge. See the latest economic indicators for the 10 states in the news tonight.


American Dreams shift in weak economy

Jan. 26, 2012

People said they still believe in the American Dream, equating it with economic success. But their expectations of what they can achieve for themselves and their children has changed during the last few years. 


Young people optimistic they can achieve American Dream

Jan. 26, 2012

Many young college students remain optimistic that they can still achieve the American Dream despite tough economic times.


As elder care grows, so do labor battles

Jan. 23, 2012

Elder care and home health care are rare bright spots in the American economy, adding jobs at a steady clip. But as the workforce grows, so, too, do fights on unionization, wages and benefits. 

Now & then: Is the Great Recession so different from the Great Depression?

Dec. 24, 2011

Some call this moment the Great Recession. As the hardship has lingered, others have begun calling it the Little Depression. But equating the hard times of the 1930s with the hard times of today is mostly overblown rhetoric. Or is it?


Marchers protest in DC for jobs and benefits

Dec. 9, 2011

Protesters from around the country are camped on the National Mall, pressing Congress to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. Michael Lawson files this snapshot of their march to Capitol Hill. 


As Apple grew, American workers left behind

Nov. 16, 2011

Apple moved its production offshore in less than a generation and changing the career path of many of its workers. One of its workers describes a current and future life of temporary jobs that will keep him on the move, with retirement not in sight.

New data show fewer children, more seniors in poverty

Nov. 7, 2011

New data from the Census Bureau paints a fresh and complex picture of poverty in America. With tax credits and food stamps factored in, the number of children in poverty falls. When you include medical costs, the number of seniors in poverty skyrockets. Kat Aaron looks at how the supplemental poverty measure will change the poverty debate. 

Poverty numbers get an update

Nov. 3, 2011

American poverty rates are based on calculations created in the 1960s by a statistician named Mollie Orshansky. Now, decades later, the figures are getting an overhaul. Will the new numbers shine a brighter light on the poor?


Promise of green jobs falls short for many

Oct. 26, 2011

Training for green industries doesn't necessarily result in job offers, particularly for those hoping to break into entry-level positions such as wind techs, despite the administration's push.


Occupy updates: Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Haven

Oct. 21, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protests, begun last month in Manhattan, have now spread to over 100 cities across the country. Here's some very local coverage from Minnesota, Connecticut and Missouri, thanks to our hyperlocal partners.


Occupy movement drives stakes on K Street

Oct. 20, 2011

The Occupy movement has built a national base powerful enough to alter discussions about the American economy. Protesters now face police crackdowns, questions about demands and a quickly approaching winter. But despite the pressures of politics and weather, occupiers are standing their ground.


American Steal: How U.S. steelworkers lost to China

Oct. 15, 2011

The reconstruction of the San Francisco Bay Bridge is well timed to create much-needed jobs. And it has. Only the jobs are in China. Will the outsourcing of this $12 billion project deliver a death blow to the American steel industry?


Job training programs open the door. Budget cuts may close it.

Oct. 13, 2011

Job-training programs can provide an avenue to the American Dream for those who have fallen through the cracks. But budget fights may cut off a critical flow of funds, putting years of success at risk.

Young people struggling to find work

Oct. 10, 2011

Turns out it's not older workers struggling the most in the post-recession period. It's young workers, and the consequences of their shaky entry to the job market will ripple for decades. 

Women left behind in recovery

Oct. 10, 2011

For teen girls of color, the recovery has "been an absolute disaster." New numbers from Gallup show young African-American women are facing an uphill road to employment. 


Mood of the country: 'anxiety-ridden'

Oct. 10, 2011

The head of Gallup, which polls Americans regularly, says the nation's mood is bleak. But Americans' lack of confidence in the federal government concerns him more.


Can Oakland continue to blossom despite serious financial woes?

Sept. 22, 2011

If Oakland doesn’t find a way to rein in its fiscal woes and create more sustainable jobs for its residents, it could see a steep crash, with a long road ahead to recovery. As it stands now, the West Coast city is already headed for painful fiscal times.


California: 2 million kids in poverty

Sept. 16, 2011

The Hernandez family in East Palo Alto, Calif., is among the growing number of Californians in poverty more than 2 million of them children.


'The worst time of my life': The job hunt remains a struggle

Sept. 16, 2011

Finding work is still a serious challenge for residents of the nation's capital. The Investigative Reporting Workshop interviewed dozens of people looking for work in the District of Columbia as well as those who counsel and serve them. Facing the worst economic outlook in decades, job seekers are struggling and frustrated, but trying to stay optimistic.


Working, but still poor

Sept. 13, 2011

From the president to Congress to nearly every neighborhood in America, the focus today is on job creation. But for millions of Americans, just having a job doesn’t mean prosperity or anything like it. We report on the rise of the working poor. 


'Grim' new poverty numbers

Sept. 13, 2011

More Americans than ever before — 4.62 million — were living in poverty in 2010, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And 6.7 percent of Americans live in deep poverty, below 50 percent of the poverty line, the highest rate ever recorded. Read on. 


Market for old debt fuels payday for rich

Sept. 8, 2011

Many people think old debt is forgotten debt. But hundreds of thousands of debtors nationwide have been hit by a new breed of collection agency: debt buyers, attracted by the potential for huge profits. And private equity firms are getting in on the action. Bryant Switzky reports.  

Housing counselors under siege

Aug. 5, 2011

Housing counselors are getting hammered by federal budget cuts that take effect this fall, and any new money for 2012 is likely to require a fight — all in a period when foreclosure actions are expected to rise. 


California reeling from the foreclosure crisis

July 25, 2011

California’s foreclosure crisis has decimated urban centers and swaths of the Central Valley. One in 51 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the first six months of 2011, according to RealtyTrac. Minorities in the state are being hit the hardest. New America Media's Ngoc Nguyen explores the reach of the state's mortgage meltdown and legislative efforts to solve California's deep housing problems.


Vets hit hard by foreclosure in Florida

July 23, 2011

The Fort Myers-Cape Coral region, home to about 60,000 veterans, is a microcosm of what is happening all over America to veterans facing tough times.


Putting a human face on the financial crisis

July 21, 2011

The Investigative Reporting Workshop and New America Media have teamed up to portray the human face of the crisis a year after the passage of landmark financial reform legislation.In California, we profile homeowners who have been devastated by the loss of their homes and have had to start over. In Maryland, we examine the nation’s wealthiest majority-black county, where the consequences of lost homes will ripple for generations.

A history of foreclosure prevention: lots of programs, little success

July 21, 2011

Since the foreclosure crisis hit, the federal government has launched program after program to help homeowners. But the number of foreclosures, delinquencies, vacancies and lives destroyed continues to mount.


Promoting home ownership through the years

July 21, 2011

Since 1995, the federal government has spent nearly $40 billion and provided trillions of dollars worth of insurance guarantees to lenders to promote homeownership, with many initiatives focused specifically on communities of color. But despite more than 15 years of commitments to the American dream, almost all the gains in home ownership made since the early 1990s have been erased.


Foreclosures mount, mediation efforts fail

July 21, 2011

Prince George's County, Md., is the wealthiest majority-black county in the country. Here, as in many communities of color, residents have been devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Mediation was touted as a way to stop the bleeding. But a year after the state passed a mediation law, just 56 homeowners have gotten a modification of their loan. 

Legal aid reeling from proposed budget cuts

July 12, 2011

Funding for legal aid would drop back to 1999 levels, under a proposal released last week by the House Appropriations Committee. Legal services groups say they're already stretched too thin, and further cuts will mean even more poor people have to face the courts alone.


'Dropping out' of the middle class

June 21, 2011

Thousands gathered on the National Mall last October to rally for the creation of more jobs. But teachers, caregivers and health-care professionals say they are still discouraged months later about the pace of the economic recovery. Here they talk about what they are facing on the home front.


Lost Jobs: Why fixing the trade deficit matters most

June 18, 2011

The trade deficit has decimated the American workforce, blocked the creation of millions of jobs, created millions more jobs for people in other countries, triggered pay cuts for millions of workers who still have jobs in the United States, and generally lowered the standard of living for many at the bottom and in the middle of the economic pile.

Budget cuts leave workers in the lurch

June 8, 2011

States are cutting unemployment benefits, cash assistance, child care and job training, writes the Workshop's Kat Aaron at the American Prospect. Without these supports, American workers may be unprepared for the future — if they make it through the present

Skills and jobs don't line up

May 12, 2011

The skills and education of America's workforce don't line up with the jobs on offer. By 2018, 72 percent of all jobs will require a college degree, but just 40 percent of Americans now have an associates degree. The solution involves massive changes to the way America thinks about education, workforce development and economic policy.


Tax time: Are corporations paying their share?

April 16, 2011

One of the more egregious falsehoods being peddled by the corporate tax cutters is that companies doing business in the United States are taxed at an exorbitant rate. Not so. While the United States has one of the highest statutory rates on the books at 35 percent, the only fair way to measure what companies actually pay is their effective rate after deductions, credits and assorted writeoffs.

If government foreclosure prevention isn't working, what is?

April 15, 2011

The Obama Administration’s foreclosure prevention program was projected to help 3 million to 4 million homeowners. Now, the program is expected to help less than half that. So if the program isn’t saving homes, what is?


Charts help: Economic data by the numbers

April 15, 2011

Since the rise of interactive data visualizations, the dismal science has become decidedly less dismal. Economists are still painting a pretty grim picture of the American economy, but at least the statistics are easy to understand and interpret, thanks to a few stellar new websites.

Retraining program helps, but new jobs fall short

March 22, 2011

The Trade Adjustment Act provides expanded benefits to workers who lose their jobs because of imports or offshoring — jobs lost because a company moves its factory overseas or starts importing a product that used to be made in America. Workers can get retrained through the program. But for what?


Graphic: U.S. offshoring trends since 1975

March 22, 2011

Offshoring moves in waves, with spikes and troughs in particular industries. These charts track the number of Trade Adjustment petitions approved. Each petition represents work moved overseas or lost to trade. It does not show the number of workers who lost jobs.


Philadelphia health care workers fight for a contract

March 17, 2011

Workers at a nursing home near Philadelphia unionized last year, seeking better wages and less expensive health care. Still without a contract, they picketed, a scene likely to be repeated around the country in the coming months and years.


Profile: JD Galvin, IT worker

March 10, 2011

JD Galvin studied substance abuse counseling in college, and started his career in human services. He switched to IT in 2000 and was laid off two years ago.

He has yet to find a new job. He's now active in the 99ers movement, an effort to organize people who have exhausted all available unemployment benefits.


Profile: Wayne Drescher, automotive IT worker

March 10, 2011

Wayne Drescher worked in automotive IT in Indiana.  He was with his company for 23 years before being laid off from his position more than two years ago. Here is an edited excerpt of their conversation.

Profile: Alan Gunderson, computer programmer

March 10, 2011

Alan Gunderson, 52, worked as a systems analyst and computer programmer in Tulsa, Okla.  When he quit his job in July 2008, he had never been out of a job longer than a month. After two years out of work he landed a new job nine months ago, earning $15,000 less with no guaranteed benefits.


Programming jobs fall, despite Labor Department's outlook

March 10, 2011

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Labor predicted there would be more well-paid  jobs for programmers with four years of college. They were wrong. Employment fluctuated in the years following the report, then settled into a slow downward pattern after 2000.


Documenting a national feeling

Feb. 7, 2011

Eileen Breen was one of hundreds who wrote to Barlett and Steele twenty years ago, hoping that things would get better for her and her family.  Now 53, things haven't panned out the way she hoped.


How the series unfolded

Feb. 7, 2011

In 1991, Barlett and Steele traveled the country talking to people about their work and lives.  As the reporters gathered similar and compelling stories of job losses and factory closings from California to New York, they came to the realization that what they had was more than a traditional newspaper story.


Experimenting with economic storytelling

Feb. 7, 2011

Here at the website, we're launching into a year of experimentation.  We'll be doing deep-dig reporting, from Barlett and Steele and the IRW team. We'll also be comparing policy proposals, creating glossaries and sharing data sets.  And we want to hear your stories — first, on offshoring and outsourcing.


How banks, government fail Americans: Investigating what went wrong

Feb. 7, 2011

Donald Barlett and James Steele revisited America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in conjunction with the Investigative Reporting Workshop.  Over the past 18 months, the project team has examined how four decades of public policy have shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

 Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.