Tamara Draut

Tamara Draut is Vice President of Policy & Research at Demos and the author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead.

Recent Articles

Borrowing Ill Health

Hospitals are getting more aggressive about sending debt collectors after under-insured consumers.

As health-care costs continue to climb, the trend to more "cost sharing" continues, and the ranks of the uninsured keep swelling, more and more Americans are finding that paying for medical care means going into debt. The latest study by the Commonwealth Fund found that one out of five Americans have medical debt -- a population that includes many individuals with health insurance. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people who reported being in debt or having problems with medical bills had health insurance at the time the bill was incurred. Medical debt doesn't discriminate by race or class either, though like other economic forces, it disproportionately impacts lower-income individuals and individuals of color. The rising cost of health care has created a move toward insurance plans that no longer actually insure patients from catastrophic or unexpected costs. As premiums have continued to rise, employers are increasingly offering their employees insurance that is cheaper in cost and...

Address the Pain, Reap the Gain

Today's young adults are very likely to be the first generation to not surpass the living standards of their parents. Our nation's future demands that we take seriously the economic plight of America's young.

Today's young adults are very likely to be the first generation to not surpass the living standards of their parents. Evidence of their declining economic opportunity and security abound, from widespread debt to lower earnings in today's labor market for all but those with advanced degrees. While this new generation is intensely engaged in the 2008 primary process, their pocketbook concerns remain on the margins of our political debate. A candidate visiting a college campus throws in something about the need for good jobs and lower tuition. But the stump speeches and debates are aimed primarily at middle-aged voters, using broad phrases like "strengthening the middle class" and ignoring the extreme economic insecurity of the young. There are two compelling reasons why our politics needs a platform centered on the promise of expanding economic opportunity and security for a new generation. First, any effective agenda to shore up America's middle class will have to address young people...

Debt: The New Safety Net

Victor and Eloise represent the new face of debt in America. Together, they've worked in a series of low-wage jobs that include stints at fast-food restaurants, small factories, and hotels. Technically, they are not poor according to the government's official definition of "poverty," but the economic vulnerability of the working poor and the near-poor are increasingly similar. The couple, whom I interviewed for my recent book, live in Montgomery, Alabama, with their two children, aged 4 and 14. They own their own home, which they bought in 2000 after their second child was born. Today, after more than a decade of working low-wage jobs, the couple's annual income has risen to about $50,000, more than double the poverty-line for a family of four. But their long years of subsistence living have left them with high-interest debt totaling $13,000. They're paying a 25 percent annual percentage rate on a $3,000 credit-card balance that paid for new tires and alignment work on their car, as...

The Mother of All Issues

Generation X has grown up. Its members and their personalities consumed our nation's attention in the 1980s, when it seemed this generation would go down in history as a group of spoiled slackers. Then in the late 1990s, the generation written off as a bunch of yahoos became the generation behind Yahoo. Now age 26 to 40, the generation that once was the subject of so much self-righteous finger-wagging is the core of America's young families. The average age a woman in this country has her first child is 25; and two out of three children younger than five are raised by parents younger than 34. While deep-seated ideological obstacles to making America more family-friendly remain, there's a new generation of parents who bear little resemblance to their baby boomer predecessors, and they should be brought into the conversation. These Gen Xers are negotiating their domestic and professional demands in their own ways. According to surveys conducted by the Work and Family Institute, the...