What Went Wrong: Unemployment

The view from the ground: Economy is still weak

Aug. 17, 2012

Hundreds of letters poured into the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer in response to the gripping story of economic woes told in the original “America: What Went Wrong?” series by Donald Barlett and James Steele 20 years ago. While letters today are submitted electronically and conversations are had across cell phones, the feeling of economic despair sounds eerily familiar. Here is the first in an occasional series about people who submitted their story to us over the many months that we have embarked on a new project, “What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream.” The series also led to Barlett and Steele's new, best-selling book, "The Betrayal of the America Dream," released earlier this month.

An uneven dream: African-Americans no strangers to unemployment

March 6, 2012

A lack of employment and economic security has put into flux prospects of the American Dream for the next generation. But crisis-level unemployment has persisted in black communities for decades. What's the solution? A look at a new report from the Economic Policy Institute and interviews with people on the front lines.

Women left behind in recovery

Oct. 10, 2011

For teen girls of color, the recovery has "been an absolute disaster." New numbers from Gallup show young African-American women are facing an uphill road to employment. 


'The worst time of my life': The job hunt remains a struggle

Sept. 16, 2011

Finding work is still a serious challenge for residents of the nation's capital. The Investigative Reporting Workshop interviewed dozens of people looking for work in the District of Columbia as well as those who counsel and serve them. Facing the worst economic outlook in decades, job seekers are struggling and frustrated, but trying to stay optimistic.

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.