Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catherine Lutz & Anne Lutz Fernandez's "Carjacked"

Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University where she holds a joint appointment with the Department of Anthropology. As an author and editor, Professor Lutz has published nine books. Anne Lutz Fernandez is a former marketer and investment banker with fifteen years of corporate experience. She is an English teacher in Westport, Connecticut.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives, and reported the following:
To really understand what Americans pay and what they forego to own a car, however, we need to take a detour through a diverse set of the nation’s neighborhoods, because while all men and women may be created equal according to our political ideals, the American automobile discriminates between us based on whether it’s parked in the driveway of a double-wide trailer, a middle-class bungalow, or a mansion-studded gated community.
Carjacked is a book on a mission to understand how Americans feel about, and live with, their cars. To do this, we interviewed drivers from across the country, as well as car dealers and automotive executives, mechanics, cab drivers, toll booth operators, auto museum directors, crash victims, doctors, EMTs and other health professionals, and environmentalists. We traveled to traffic court, Detroit proving grounds, DMVs, seedy used car lots, exurban housing developments, and junkyards, among other places to learn about the often taken-for-granted and taken-for-inevitable object in our driveways.

Our page 99 quote focuses on the remarkably different effects that owning and operating a car have on families and individuals at different income levels. While car and oil stocks and stakes benefit the richest Americans, for everyone else, cars represent the largest family expense besides housing. Fully one in five dollars earned goes to their vehicles, on average, but an especially big bite is taken from the budgets of families with limited incomes. Car dealers and loan officers see the working poor as easy targets for overpricing—they are often victim to dealer fraud and pay high prices for older cars in poor condition; they can pay more for insurance based solely on their zip code; they pay higher loan rates; and they are the pool of customers for car title loan outfits that have repossessed hundreds of thousands of cars out of neighborhoods around the country each year. Finally, those Americans who are poor enough to be carless must rely on our thin public transit system. This creates an awful catch-22: with a landscape built around the car and job growth concentrated in the suburbs, the urban poor in particular find it difficult to get or keep jobs that they need a car to reach.

Besides its look at the car in American life, Carjacked also provides immediate, practical advice on how families at all income levels can reduce their dependence on the car and end up with greater savings, time, and safety.
Read excerpts and learn more about the book and authors at the official Carjacked website.

--Marshal Zeringue