From Middle Income to Poor: Downward Mobility Among Displaced Steelworkers

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991 - 144 pages
Allison Zippay charts the decline of displaced blue-collar workers, part of the fallout of the past decade's dramatic economic shift from manufacturing to an expanded, service-based economy. She challenges the widely held assumption that these workers have been absorbed into the post-industrial economy and raises questions regarding the real nature of their occupational transition. Actually a case study of the Shenango Valley in western Pennsylvania, where an estimated 6,600 jobs were lost due to plant closings, From Middle Income to Poor is unique in its coverage of the vital issue of economic dislocation. Zeroing in on long-term unemployment and income loss, Zippay finds that many of the displaced workers remain unemployed or underemployed and have slipped in status from middle-income to poor. The volume uses data gathered from interviews to explore how persons with a history of steady blue-collar employment have coped with economic dislocation and downward lifestyle shifts, and in the process presents a path-breaking community portrait of industrial displacement. Early chapters focus on blue-collar workers in the 1980s and the economic and social dimensions of the manufacturing decline. They describe the Shenango Valley community setting, mill work, mill workers, and how the lifestyles of the local residents have been shaped by long-standing blue collar traditions. Later chapters investigate the changes in income and employment that prompted a downward slide and examine the processes of rebuilding. Chapter Seven cites incidences of depression and other emotional distress as well as changes in perception of self and community. The final chapter discusses the implications of the findings and recommends actions that could improve the displaced workers' social and economic well-being. Sociologists, policy analysts, social workers, and those in the fields of labor relations, social welfare, and social economics will find that this intense scrutiny of the Shenango Valley has far-reaching implications for the national economy in the 1990s and beyond.

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The Economic
The Shenango Valley Community
Mill Work and Mill Workers
Changes in Income and Employment
Mobilizing New Sources of Support
Depression Anger and Mistrust
Out of Sight Out of Mind
Survey Methodology

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About the author (1991)

ALLISON ZIPPAY is an Assistant Professor of Policy and Planning at the School of Social Work, Rutgers University. She has served as a teaching fellow at Harvard University and as a planning consultant to numerous community service agencies. Her research and writing focus on poverty, underemployment, and community planning.

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