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Short Synopsis
An indispensable investigation into the American unemployment system and the ways gender and class affect the lives of those looking for work.

Full Synopsis
Through the intimate stories of those seeking work, The Tolls of Uncertainty offers a startling look at the nation's unemployment system—who it helps, who it hurts, and what, if anything, we can do to make it fair. Drawing on interviews with one hundred men and women who have lost jobs across Pennsylvania, Sarah Damaske examines the ways unemployment shapes families, finances, health, and the job hunt. Shaped by a person's gender and class, unemployment generates new inequalities that cast uncertainties on the search for work and on life chances beyond the world of work, threatening opportunity in America.

She reveals the high levels of blame that women who have lost jobs place on themselves, leading them to put their families' needs above their own, sacrifice their health, and take on more tasks inside the home. This "guilt gap" illustrates how unemployment all too often exacerbates existing differences between men and women. Class privilege, too, gives some an advantage, while leaving others at the mercy of an underfunded unemployment system. Middle-class men are generally able to create the time and space to search for good work, but many others are bogged down by the challenges of poverty-level unemployment benefits and family pressures and fall further behind.

The Tolls of Uncertainty

How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America

Author Sarah Damaske

Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt

Publication date May 25, 2021

Running time 9 hrs

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