We interviewed Professor Katherine Newman about her book The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition. In this book, she and a team of researchers explore why, in the world’ wealthiest countries, an increasing number of adults in their twenties and thirties are moving back in with their parents. She compares the incidence of accordion families in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, and the U.S.
I suggest having students listen to the podcast at home (in lieu of a reading) and answer these questions to prepare them for a class discussion:
1. What is an accordion family? What is a boomerang child? Which countries have high rates of accordion families? Which countries have low rates?
2. Why is it difficult to conduct the same survey in multiple countries? What was one difficulty that Newman and her research team faced? How did she attempt to alleviate this?
3. What are the conventional “markers of adulthood” and how have they changed? For example, why are boomerang children considered “adults” even though they do not have the “markers of adulthood”?
4. According to Newman’s findings, how are immigration and accordion families interconnected?
5. Newman gives a few reasons why, in the United States, parents and children have adapted well to the accordion family structure. What are these reasons?
6. How does social class matter when it comes to accordion families? Newman gives several examples.
7. Which countries have adjusted well to accordion families and which have resisted this new family structure?
8. What makes Japan so unique when it comes to perceptions of accordion families?
9. In Nordic countries, what prevents accordion families?
10. What recommendations does Professor Newman make for U.S. social policy?
11. According the Prof. Newman, are accordion families on the way out?
Here are some additional resources on Professor Newman’s findings:
- Article from The New York Times profiling the book along with Eric Klinenberg’s book Going Solo (see our Teaching Post and Podcast with Klinenberg here!)