The Riches of This Land

The Untold, True Story of America's Middle Class


By Jim Tankersley

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A vivid character-driven narrative, fused with important new economic and political reporting and research, that busts the myths about middle class decline and points the way to its revival.

For over a decade, Jim Tankersley has been on a journey to understand what the hell happened to the world’s greatest middle-class success story — the post-World-War-II boom that faded into decades of stagnation and frustration for American workers. In The Riches of This Land, Tankersley fuses the story of forgotten Americans– struggling women and men who he met on his journey into the travails of the middle class– with important new economic and political research, providing fresh understanding how to create a more widespread prosperity. He begins by unraveling the real mystery of the American economy since the 1970s – not where did the jobs go, but why haven’t new and better ones been created to replace them.

His analysis begins with the revelation that women and minorities played a far more crucial role in building the post-war middle class than today’s politicians typically acknowledge, and policies that have done nothing to address the structural shifts of the American economy have enabled a privileged few to capture nearly all the benefits of America’s growing prosperity. Meanwhile, the “angry white men of Ohio” have been sold by Trump and his ilk a theory of the economy that is dangerously backward, one that pits them against immigrants, minorities, and women who should be their allies.

At the culmination of his journey, Tankersley lays out specific policy prescriptions and social undertakings that can begin moving the needle in the effort to make new and better jobs appear. By fostering an economy that opens new pathways for all workers to reach their full potential — men and women, immigrant or native-born, regardless of race — America can once again restore the upward flow of talent that can power growth and prosperity.



Winston-Salem, 1943


Theodosia Simpson silenced the tobacco-cutting machines of plant 65 on June 17, shortly after returning from lunch. She worked on the top floor, the machines stretching out around her like crops ready for harvest. Three rows, each separated by a wide aisle. Twenty-two machines per row. Three women at each machine, synchronized. Every fifteen minutes a man would push a big rolling cart over, lift a box off it, and drop it on the machine. One woman would pull bundles from the box and lay them down. The second woman would spread out the contents. The third woman would feed them into the machine. They did this for eight hours a day, five and a half days a week, with no breaks except for lunch and, at most, five minutes to use the toilet. They had no vacation days, no sick days, not even a day granted for pregnant women to give birth. Their machine fed other machines, which performed other tasks, on the lower floors of plant 65. Theodosia’s machine was number 13. When she refused to turn it on and the women around her followed suit, it was like cutting an oxygen line. Work stopped on the floor below, then the floor below that. Within five minutes, plant 65 was off-line.

Within a few days, the entire R.J. Reynolds company was, too.

It was 1943, nearly 177 years after a group of white men in Pennsylvania declared a self-evident truth, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. War was raging across the cobblestones of Europe and the sand islands of the Pacific, and there were boys in uniform who needed their cigarettes. The white men who ran the company knew it was no time for the largest tobacco factory in northwestern North Carolina to lurch to a halt.

So did the black women who made the factory run.

Theodosia had gone to work for R.J. Reynolds in the depths of the Great Depression when she was sixteen years old. She began as a temporary worker in the cigarette plant, hired to help meet the extra demand that came with the summer months. That fall she moved to plant 12, then later to plant 65. Those plants were the stemmeries, where workers began the long and arduous process of ripping tobacco leaves from their stems and rolling them into smokes, for soldiers and everyone else. The women who worked in the plants would go home at night and wash the dust out of their ears. Their dresses would stink worse than any barroom.

There was a hierarchy among the workers, with the black women at the bottom. The untier, who pulled the tobacco leaves from the box, earned a few cents per hour less than the spreader, who arranged the leaves to be fed into the machine. The spreader earned a few cents less than the machine operator. On the day of the work stoppage, Theodosia was working as a spreader, earning less than thirty cents an hour, which would be several dollars per hour less than minimum wage today.

Theodosia and several of her former colleagues at the factory recalled their experience there, decades later, in interviews with a historian named Robert Rodgers Korstad. Their memories have been archived and made public by the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina. When you sift through them, a narrative emerges of discrimination, determination, and what would become a victory not only for the black women and men who toiled for R.J. Reynolds but for thousands of white workers, too.

It is an allegory of worker empowerment. A preview of how a long-repressed group of Americans would kick open new doors of opportunity and lead the nation to a Golden Era of shared prosperity. It is also a blueprint for the nation today, as it climbs out of the pit of a recession that exposed how weak and unjust the economy became after that Golden Era died.

The foremen in the plant were white men, often with little formal education. They would scream at women for not working fast enough. They would scold black women in particular for reading on their lunch break. “What are you doing with a newspaper?” Theodosia recalled one telling her. “You came here to work.” They would pat women and hold some of them at their desks for hours, just to amuse themselves. If a woman talked back, or slowed down, or complained in any way, a foreman would often point toward the door, which he called “the hole the carpenter left.” Go ahead, he was saying. Find yourself a new job. He knew there wasn’t a better one, not in those days, not for a black woman in the city of Winston-Salem.

On the morning of June 17, 1943, a black woman at the machine next to Theodosia’s burst into tears. She was a widow, a mother of five. She had fallen sick, as workers often did in the Reynolds factory, but she was still working, because there were no sick days on the stemming line. The women at each machine were expected to feed through an entire box of tobacco every quarter of an hour. The previous month, the foremen had doubled the number of leaves stuffed into each box, but they had kept the same expectations: four boxes an hour, every hour. The sick woman was falling behind that pace, and a foreman had just walked over to tell her to hurry up. He pointed to the carpenter’s hole. “And she started crying, almost went into hysteria,” Theodosia recalled, “because she had these children to rear and nobody working but her.”

Leaders of a labor union had come to Winston-Salem months before, to try to organize tobacco workers, and Theodosia had been going to their meetings. One day that spring she had tried to fasten her dress with union pins, but the foreman sent her home to change clothes, and the next day the plant changed its dress code to outlaw pins of any kind. She had been looking for the right moment to act on what she was hearing about banding workers together. The crying woman had stirred her to it. She beckoned some friends she could trust over to the bathroom. They decided that the next day, Friday, they would stage a sit-in work stoppage. Somehow a foreman caught wind of their plan, and the ladies learned that he had learned about it, and so at lunch they decided to move faster. They returned to their machines. Someone pulled the whistle that signaled it was time for work to start again.

What came next sounds like a story from the scriptures.

Theodosia and her trusted friends sat down on their stools. They stared at the machines. They did not turn them on.

Other women, who had not heard about the plan at lunch, turned their machines on.

A black man came by with a cart full of tobacco boxes. He, too, had been sick all week. He had asked repeatedly to see a nurse. She kept sending him back to work, telling him he was fine. Theodosia, who would later rise to work in the X-ray laboratory of a hospital, realized decades after the fact that the man was probably showing signs of hypertension. The man paused near Theodosia and looked around at all the machines that were stopped. “And he said,” Theodosia told her interviewer, “‘If these women’ll stand up for their rights, I’m with them,’ and just dropped on the floor”—dead.

When the women who were still working heard that man and saw him fall, they turned off their machines too.

Days later, when the machines roared back to life, the workers of the Reynolds factory had a union, and that union had won promises of more humane treatment from the white men who ran the company. The workers would soon have sick days, paid vacation, and holidays. They would have a retirement plan and profit sharing. Their wages would jump. For some workers, pay would double. The gains spread to all the workers, regardless of race or gender or job title.

Every Reynolds cigarette was a joint venture, powered by the sweat of thousands of white workers and thousands of black workers. Most of the white workers were not foremen or managers. They did slightly less debilitating jobs on the production line, for higher pay, than black workers. Some of them joined in the sit-down stoppage and the union drive that followed, but whether they did or not, each white worker reaped the benefits.

Every single employee of the Reynolds factory took a huge step toward a middle-class American life in the summer of 1943. All thanks to the black women of plant 65.

Today, as we close in on 250 years of the American republic, the idea of the “middle class” is deeply entrenched in American life. Politicians pander to it. Polls show that nearly every worker thinks he or she is a part of it. That group includes people who live wealthier, more comfortable lives than almost anyone in Winston-Salem in the 1940s could have dreamed of, all the way up to the white men who owned the tobacco factories.

But the middle class, as we know and love and understand it, is a relatively recent development in the United States. It was born in the twentieth century, long after the settling of the American continent by white people. It has been a popular phenomenon for maybe three-quarters of a century. In cultural consciousness, it eased onto the scene around World War I, began to really catch on in the 1940s—around the time of the Reynolds factory strikes—and peaked in 1971, at almost the exact same time as hippies.

In technical terms the nation has always had something you could call a middle class. For a long time, it was limited to a shifting group of white-collar workers, who almost always were white. As the historian Stuart M. Blumin has detailed, the term referred to a particular type of salesclerk in the Jacksonian 1820s. To Walt Whitman, it meant a slightly different type of office-working suburbanite when he extolled the virtues of the middle class in newspaper editorials before the Civil War. Later in the 1800s it referred to exceedingly narrow groups of workers, like Boston streetcar operators; in the twentieth century, at times, it seemed to encompass everyone in the country who worked. “Americans use the term with remarkable imprecision,” Blumin wrote in his book The Emergence of the Middle Class, “yet, we seem to represent something very important about our culture and society by doing so.”

The middle class as we understand it now is not limited to one color of collar, or to any color of the skin. It unites salaried professionals like teachers and paralegals with highly trained, blue-collar factory workers who get paid by the hour. It includes a growing number of service workers like home health aides. The broad middle class sprawls across cities, suburbs, and rural America. It was forged in the national mobilization to supply and fight the Second World War, it flourished in that war’s aftermath, and it has dwindled in the last several decades.

It is perhaps the most American of aspirations, a shared national myth that has the virtue of being true.

We are losing it, in part because we have lost sight of what made it in the first place: American people, working together, to secure better lives not just for themselves but for their neighbors.

That’s an origin story you don’t often hear. For a reason.

In recent years the middle-class mythos has been co-opted and narrowed by powerful white men who, in the time-honored tradition of ruling elites attempting to keep a crumbling hold on power, have convinced one group of distressed workers to blame their troubles on another group of distressed workers. They have taken little responsibility for the policies they have pushed that hurt working families, killing jobs and stifling wage growth. The stories they tell workers now cast immigrants and other “outsiders” as thieves of economic opportunity, stealing prosperity from the hardworking white men who built America’s industrial belt and, with it, the middle class.

Those stories are incomplete, incorrect, and a threat to the economic, social, and moral health of our nation. They miss the lessons of plant 65 and the women who brought a factory to its knees, and of the thousands of workers those women helped guide toward the middle class. The real story, the one that white male elites have tried to crumple back into the carton and toss to the side of the road, is more hopeful. More unifying.

The real story of America’s middle class, as I have discovered in more than a decade of writing about economic change for national newspapers, and in a lifetime of worry and wonder about workers who could not seem to get ahead no matter how hard they tried, is not a story of theft by outsiders. It does not pit one group of struggling laborers—be they men of color or immigrants or women across all races—against a similar, white, male group.

The real story, revealed in cutting-edge economic research, a retracing of centuries of American history, and conversations with the women and men who make our market-based economy hum today, is that workers need each other. They hold in their hands—be they calloused or manicured—the ability to lift one another to better pay, better treatment, and a better quality of life.

Let’s be clear up front: this story grapples, in great detail, with the economic trials of white, working-class American men, whose fortunes have declined in recent decades and whose anger has in many ways reshaped the country’s social and political landscape. But unlike a lot of what you read or see or hear about the middle class, this is not a story about those men. It is a story about the false promises they have been sold, and about the unlikely allies they and other workers need to reclaim the prosperity that all Americans expect and deserve to enjoy.

I have spent more than a decade of reporting on the trail of the country’s lost middle class, from a scrappy newsroom in Toledo, Ohio, to the Washington, D.C., bureau of the New York Times. I went looking for an explanation for why middle-class jobs vanished from factory towns along the Ohio River, for the rocket men and women of Southern California, for the grandchildren of R.J. Reynolds employees in the Carolinas. I poured myself into the question of why so many American workers have given themselves over to anger and finger-pointing, to a government-by-grievance mentality that seems to care less about solving problems and more about scorching their perceived enemies, even if they burn themselves in the process. I went looking for the source of their anger and the path to their renewal.

What I found was a story of hope, even in the bleak days of a recession. A story that should unite black women who drive buses and deliver mail with white men who tune engines in garages, that shows the shared fate of newly arrived immigrants and Americans whose ancestors made land on the Mayflower. A truth that can revive a middle class that has been scorched, for far too long, by the lies of elite white men.

The great American middle-class boom is actually a story of men of color and women breaking shackles that had held them back from before the birth of the nation. Their progress lifted everyone in the country, including white men. The reason so many Americans have slipped out of the middle class in recent decades is that the economy stopped opening as many new opportunities for those workers, and even started pushing some of them backward. Fixing that problem is the answer to reviving America’s middle class. For women, for black men, for immigrants. Even for white men like the ones whose livelihoods were left to rot in the forests of my youth, in Western Oregon, which is where this journey begins.


McMinnville, 1978


The fur trade brought white people to Yamhill County, a conifer corner of the Pacific Northwest where beavers dammed the creeks flowing down the back side of the Coast Range. Forests kept the settlers there, kept them busy, and kept them alive. Pioneers fresh off the Oregon Trail felled Douglas firs to build their homes along the Yamhill River. They tied the logs into skiffs that carried their crops downriver to Portland and the sea. For generations after the first whites arrived, most men in the county either tilled the soil or worked in the woods. The shadow of the industry slowly receded only after Oregon became a state. Other sectors grew up slowly but surely around it. Still, on the eve of the Second World War, half of the land in the county—221,525 acres in all—was either standing timber or growing back from recent cuts. There were twenty-nine sawmills slicing logs, a plywood plant near the western county line, and a pulp plant on the eastern edge.

When I was born there in 1978, in the county seat of McMinnville, in a hospital that has since been knocked down and replaced by a chain drugstore, timber was still king—or at least, still calling the shots. Roughly one out of every six private-sector workers in Yamhill County worked as a logger, or in the sawmills, or in some other connection to the woods. If you counted employment at paper mills and trucking companies that hauled logs, the share would be even higher.

I still draw comfort from the trees. They greet you when you drive toward McMinnville, whether from the mountains that lie to the west or the farmland that lies to the south or the sprawling suburbs that lie to the north and east. Hemlock and red cedar and Sitka spruce, but above all the Doug firs, tall and green, with layers of branches angled skyward at sharp and repeated angles. Like a Christmas tree lot, as far as you can see.

I grew up understanding that those trees weren’t just yuletide decorations or some sort of museum collection for Portlanders to admire, though they were both. They gave jobs to our neighbors. In the boom after World War II, Yamhill County’s mills churned out hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber each year, and they put thousands of children—mostly sons—of war veterans to work. My parents were children of veterans, and they were white migrants to Oregon, though their wagon was a Buick and their trail was the I-5 freeway running north from California. My father hung long crosscut saws on the walls of his first law office, where he helped small timber outfits buy and sell land to harvest. Our church friends included a forester who cruised timber, sizing up the forests for how much wood they could yield, clad in a preferred brand of jeans called Wild Ass. (He also occasionally wore them to services.) Fathers of school friends worked in the mills, or managed them, or carried thick round logs from the forests on long truck beds in a low, straining gear.

As a child I saw the forests of Yamhill County lure kids out of our high school and other high schools in the smaller towns around us. For a long time, they lifted those kids into the middle class. Well into the mid-1980s, the typical worker in Oregon’s forest-products industry earned nearly one and a half times the salary of the typical worker in all the state’s other industries combined, according to statistics from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. We didn’t know those stats as kids. We just knew that other kids said working in the woods was a good job. A job to be proud of. A job to aspire to.

It seems almost impossible to imagine now, as lattes and wine and microchips have taken over the state economy, but as recently as the late 1970s, one out of every ten jobs in Oregon—from the city streets of Portland to the high desert of Burns to the fishing fleets in Depoe Bay—grew out of the timber industry. Those workers didn’t need an expensive college degree to earn what was at the time a solidly middle-class wage. A graduate of McMinnville High School could walk off the commencement lawn at Wortman Stadium and into a job cutting trees in the Coast Range, with reasonable expectation that after a few years of risking his neck and wrenching his back, he could buy a home and a car and afford to raise a family in a mostly rural, mostly white county. Some kids didn’t even need to graduate. The money in the industry seemed good enough—and the freedom even more so—that they just walked out of class one day and left high school behind.

Until the day that connection splintered.

This was my introduction to the rotting of the American middle class—or at least, one rugged, rural, overwhelmingly white sliver of it. It is where my journey to understanding decades of struggle for workers truly begins. It is not the full picture of the middle class, not even close. But it was the picture I woke up to every day as a kid.

From the time I entered elementary school through the time I left home for college, a national recession, an automation proliferation, and an overhaul in federal forest management ravaged the wood-products industry. Officials in Washington, D.C., curtailed the amount of federal land available for logging. Companies bought new tools and technologies that allowed them to fell the same number of trees with far fewer workers. Harvest levels dropped in Yamhill County. Nearly half the timber jobs went away.

It is a strange and horrible and scarring thing to watch, even if you don’t realize at the time exactly what it is you are seeing: an economic ladder snapping out from under a cluster of workers, trapping older ones in the middle of their careers and leaving young ones to wonder if they will ever get their lives off the ground. It can traumatize a community, scramble its politics, leave its leaders struggling for answers. Some communities manage to bounce back, as mine did, but many workers never really do.

I have seen many an economic ladder snap in the decades since I left home, none so fiercely and quickly as in the spring of 2020. A deadly virus swept the country and millions of Americans lost their jobs overnight. The carnage was carried live on cable. No one could miss it.

That wasn’t true in Oregon in the eighties. The spread of the damage was slower and, for many people, harder to see. Probably because I was a kid trying to make sense of what was happening around me, it was terrifying. It was also formative. Living through the downfall of the timber industry taught me how the economy could crush workers with almost no warning.

In order to tell you the story of the middle class, I need to tell you that story, which means I need to tell you my story, and my hometown’s.

Yamhill County sits in the upper left corner of Oregon, near the top of the Willamette Valley, with the Pacific Coast Range as its back fence and the Cascades looming to the east. Its boundaries run long and rectangular at the bottom, with an offset hammerhead on top. Like a mallard at rest on a pond, his head at attention and his beak dipping forward. Or, for a child of the Game Boy era, like the backward-Z-shaped Tetris piece, fit satisfyingly snug into a scoring row. The northeast corner—the top of the beak—lies close enough to the state’s largest city, Portland, to count as a far-flung exurb. The southwestern edge laps tantalizingly close to the Pacific Ocean, just nine miles over the county line. On the rare summer day when the sun is hot in the valley and warm-for-the-Pacific-Northwest on the beach, a teenager borrowing his dad’s car can make the drive up and down the wide passes on Highway 18 to the sands of Lincoln City in less than an hour, depending on how aggressively he’s willing to pass log trucks on the way over the ridge.

It is the cradle of Beverly Cleary, the beloved author of the Ramona books and other children’s literature, who signed a book of mine when I was a boy and she had been honored at the McMinnville Public Library. Cleary was born in McMinnville but raised in nearby Yamhill, which is also the hometown of my colleague Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize. “The 1970s,” Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, his wife, wrote in their book Tightrope, “were an optimistic time in Yamhill, a town southwest of Portland with one flashing red light, four churches, and, at that time, 517 people, almost all of them white.” For a broader picture of the country, I am partial to the maps made by my best friend from high school, Mike McDaniel, who left Oregon to earn a master’s degree in geography and now roams the Willamette Valley charting cropland for growers of hazelnuts, alfalfa, and pinot noir. “Yamhill County,” he told me, when I asked him to sum up his maps in a few words, “is a uniquely beautiful little corner of Oregon, a classic example of European American settlement of the western frontier that still clings to a mostly white, agrarian past and struggles with growth and transition to a more urban, diverse, and complicated future.”

It still astonishes me that my parents found it. They were a librarian and a lawyer who had spent the ends of their childhoods and the tumult of college in the late 1960s in Southern California. My mother was born in Seattle but had moved to the Golden State as a young girl. My father was an Air Force brat whose parents retired to northern Arizona soon after he finished high school. Mom earned a master’s from the University of Southern California and then went to work for the Los Angeles Public Library, answering phones on the reference desk, sometimes to settle bar bets, a human search engine before anyone had thought of the electronic kind. Dad finished law school at the University of California at Los Angeles, spurned some big-firm offers in L.A. and Denver, and took a year-long clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, one of the sleepiest state capitals in America.

When my brother and I were kids, I asked incredulously how they could have possibly denied their future children a lifetime of beach trips and Dodger games in favor of a town that did not, when they moved there, possess a single McDonald’s. The way they told the story was, it was the right mixture of happenstance and lifestyle choice. Near the end of his clerkship, my father was connected by a friend to a two-lawyer shop with an opening for a junior associate, located in a town of ten thousand that neither of my parents had ever heard of. He interviewed a couple of times, including once with one of the partners on a steelhead fishing trip on the Nestucca River, and they offered him the sort of job he had held in his mind as ideal. It was not at a big firm with a fast track to a federal judgeship, as some of his law school classmates landed. But it was in a town small enough that he could join the Water & Light board, in a firm relaxed enough that he could take weeks off in the fall to hunt deer and elk. He could be home early enough on spring evenings to coach Little League games.

My mother was a slower sell. The first time my father took her to McMinnville, she cried. “What am I going to do here?” she said. The way she ended up answering that question, I would later realize, was a clue to solving America’s middle-class puzzle.

They arrived in 1976. Five years later, with two very young boys in tow, they bought a house. They paid $91,000. The same house would cost a young family in McMinnville about $400,000 today, an increase of more than 50 percent after you adjust for inflation. My parents still live in that house. From the balcony of my old bedroom on the second floor, where I would fall asleep to the voice of Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully wafting in from stations in Bakersfield or Las Vegas, you can see the foothills of the Coast Range, swathed in evergreens.

I wanted to be the second baseman for the Dodgers, a dream hampered by the fact that I couldn’t hit, field, or throw well. One day in the early 1990s, in an overcrowded middle school, I stumbled onto what the guidance counselors called a career track. Perhaps influenced by my grandfather, who wrote for the Washington Post and several other outlets in the 1940s, I had signed up for a student newspaper club. My first contribution was a column attacking the school ban on baseball caps, which landed me in the principal’s office. “What are we going to do with you?” he asked, and “journalism” seemed like a pretty fun answer. I joined the high school paper as a freshman. That summer, I somehow landed a job at the thrice-weekly News-Register, our local paper, mostly writing obituaries and wedding announcements. It grew into a full-time reporting gig, every summer of high school.


  • An NPR Best Book of 2020—NPR
  • "Jim Tankersley lays out a compelling argument...Deftly weaving firsthand examples with accessible discussions of economic research."—Washington Post
  • "But where Tankersley excels, as we face another its-the-economy-stupid election, is in parsing data on America's ailing middle class and leavening it with sympathetic portraits. As much as anything, he seeks to refute Trump's xenophobic, white-centered and misguided vision of how to make America great."—Los Angeles Times
  • "Tankersley is a well-intentioned liberal who provides a telling--if sad, painful--account of the erosion of the post-WW II American Dream."—New York Journal of Books
  • "Surprising and enlightening and timely. The Riches of This Land turns our understanding of why America once had an economy that delivered prosperity on its head. Only when black men, women of all races, and immigrants broke through blockades of oppression did their gains flow out to everyone. And, now, as Americans seek to find their way out from another devastating economic crisis, Tankersley exposes the true heroes of American prosperity - and why they are the source of our future renewal."
    Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author
  • "The Riches of This Land is that rare combination of compassionate narrative and trenchant economic analysis to examine the often-misunderstood history of the American middle class and prescribe policies to revive it. Through great storytelling and a firm grasp on economics, Jim Tankersley gives us powerful insight on the key economic question of our time."—David Wessel, director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution
  • "Globalization, the movement of manufacturing from America to China, and the current pandemic have shredded the American middle class. If we are to ever regain an economy that works for all people--not just a sliver of the economic elite--we need to understand who made America great in the first place. In his brilliantly written The Riches of this Land, Jim Tankersley tells the fascinating stories of the men and women who were the force behind the widespread prosperity we once enjoyed and who can lead us back to the promised land."—Andy Stern, president emeritus, Service Employees International Union, and author of Raising the Floor
  • "A heartfelt, warm, and often moving book about working men and women and the troubles they face. It unites sharply observed stories with trenchant accounts of cutting-edge research to open up a conversation about systemic discrimination that could lay the foundation for an entirely new way of thinking about rebuilding both the working class and our economy."—Rebecca Henderson, John and Natty McArthur University Professor, Harvard University, and author of Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire
  • "An essential book from an essential reporter taking on the most pressing political question of our age. The Riches of This Land is a brilliant, searing, and human-centered examination of the American middle class, what it could be, and what it must be."—Annie Lowrey, staff writer for the Atlantic and author of "Give People Money"
  • "The Riches of This Land is the inspiring story of the American economy's unsung heroes, and a manual for building a better future together as one nation."—Arthur Brooks, professor of the practice of public leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, and author of Love Your Enemies

On Sale
Aug 11, 2020
Page Count
320 pages

Jim Tankersley

About the Author

Jim Tankersley, a tax and economics reporter for the New York Times, has written extensively about the stagnation of the American middle class, the decline of economic opportunity in wide swaths of the country and how policy changes in Washington have exacerbated those trends over the past few decades.

Prior to the Times, Tankersley was the policy and politics editor at Vox, economic policy correspondent for the Washington Post, and economic and political reporter at the National Journal. He started his career with stints at The Oregonian, The Rocky Mountain News, and The Toledo Blade. At The Blade he was a member of the Coingate team that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He and a Blade colleague won the 2007 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for a series of stories demonstrating how and why the Ohio economy declined so dramatically over the course of a generation.

Learn more about this author