Recently Noted – “Across America, working-class people are dying of despair”

Who Killed the Knapp Family?” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn appeared in the Sunday 1/12/2020 NYTimes. This essay which is adapted from a newly published book by the same authors, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, explores the grim reality of life in one small corner of America, Yamhill, OR1 where Kristof grew up.

This is a reminder of the harsh lives that most Americans live:

  • poor paying jobs or no jobs
  • if the federal minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with inflation and productivity, it would now be $22 per hour. Instead it’s $7.25.
  • a pharmaceutical industry driven opiate addiction pandemic; the almost 50 yr old war on drugs and mass incarceration;  loss of job identity
  • one in seven don’t graduate from high school
  • one third of working adults are economically insecure (can’t meet monthly spending requirements)2
  • a tuition loan debt mountain; rising housing costs; still 28 million people have no health insurance……

The Kristof-Wudunn essay is well worth reading for putting real people back into the picture.


  1. Yamhill is located West-South-West one hour’s drive from Portland, OR
  2. accessed 01172020