Book: The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It

Authors: M. Graetz and Ian Shapiro

Review by: Professor Jeff Rosensweig, director, John Robson Program for Business, Public Policy, and Government at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

Jeffrey Rosensweig

Written by two renowned academics with a rare talent for outlining detailed, practical solutions for fixing economic insecurity, The Wolf at the Door is extremely timely as U.S. leaders weigh new relief measures aimed at blunting the impact of the pandemic. 

Impressed by the book, I spoke with one of the authors, Michael J. Graetz, who outlined for me the precarious situation that many Americans find themselves facing amid the current economic crisis:

“According to data in the Federal Reserve Report on Economic Preparedness and Emergency Savings, 44 percent of American workers can’t pay off a $400 emergency by the end of the month without borrowing money or having to sell something. Now, the number of families facing emergencies of far more than $400 is enormous. Economic insecurity is the heart of the matter. Middle and low-income families have shockingly few resources to fall back on, with millions just one emergency away from economic disaster.”

The Wolf at the Door is about feasible – indeed vital – ways of addressing an issue that we ignore at our peril. The authors are prescient in terms of thinking about economic insecurity as a key issue of our times. 

Inequality, though large and increasing, is not our only problem.  Even the middle-class fears losing position. And while the pandemic highlights deeper issues, even before it struck a great many of us worried if advances in artificial intelligence would threaten our job security.

This book makes clear that outsourcing is still a challenge: “Given the drastic transformation in United States economic output as of late, technology now allows companies headquartered in Seattle, Peoria or San Jose to monitor and shift production of their products anywhere in the world, enabling them to vary output in response to worldwide fluctuations in demand.”

I agree with Graetz and Shapiro that Americans will face continued challenges maintaining their jobs in a digital and global economy. Automation leads to job insecurity, and global competition benefits some while increasing fear of job loss for others. 

As a professor of international business, I generally favor free trade. However, we need to work together to find ways to enhance the prospects and security of those who come out on the losing end. 

Tens of millions of American workers who feel justifiably insecure need coalitions of far-sighted businesses and government institutions to form public-private partnerships to increase economic stability.

Concluding, this excellent book needs to be read by anyone willing to work toward this goal. It is rare in its portrayal of real-world problems while proposing creative, sustainable solutions. The Wolf at the Door offers a roadmap for navigating our way out of the current climate of fear and insecurity and into a better future.

Editor’s notes: Global Atlanta will receive a 10 percent commission on any purchase of this book through the links on this page. also contributes 10 percent of the purchase price of each book to independent booksellers around the United States.

Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010. 

See last year’s full list of books on BookShop here, and all 2020 reader picks here. 

All books were chosen and reviews written independently, with only mild editing from our staff.