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Michael R. Strain

Must-Reads for 2017: Rethinking the American Dream

"Dream Hoarders" challenges the top 20 percent to help the bottom 80 move up.
Not necessarily the 1 percent.

Not necessarily the 1 percent.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Dream Hoarders,” Richard V. Reeves’s book about the upper middle class, deserves the attention it's received since its publication earlier this year. Reviewers have rightly praised it for focusing on the highest-earning 20 percent of U.S. households, a broad swath of relatively affluent Americans far more numerous than the easy-to-caricature top 1 percent. Reeves raises hard questions about the way the upper-middle-class lives and how it passes its advantages along to its children.

Reeves made me question whether there should be limits for what we do for our children. He and I agree that bribing a college admissions officer would be immoral. But Reeves argues that it is also immoral to email a friend to see if your son can intern at his company, or to lean on your alma mater to admit your daughter into its freshman class. Those who do this, he argues, are “hoarding opportunity.”