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美国百万中产女性恐遭财务危机

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Why American women go bankrupt

美国百万中产女性恐遭财务危机

As the world struggles to emerge from the economic near-collapse, one sub-group in the United States has slid below the waterline in record numbers: formerly middle-class women. A new report shows that about 1 million American middle-class women will find themselves in bankruptcy court this year. Their number is more than the women who will "graduate from college, receive a diagnosis of cancer, or file for divorce", according to economist Elizabeth Warren. Their plight, symptomatic in many ways of the plight of women around the world, holds lessons for us all.

正当世界经济挣扎着从崩溃边缘复苏之际,美国社会中却有一个数量空前的亚群体正滑向收入水平线以下:曾经的中产阶级女性。一份最新报告显示,美国今年将有100万中产阶级女性面临破产。经济学家伊丽莎白?沃伦称,这一数量远远超出“即将大学毕业,罹患癌症或申请离婚”女性的数量。她们的困境,在许多方面都代表了世界各地女性面临的困境,我们所有人都应当进行一番思考。

These bankrupt women are better educated than their male counterparts: most have some college education, and more than half own their own homes. What tipped them from middle-class lifestyles to incomes just above the poverty line was likely to have been one or all of three factors. Two are economic, and, for many women, the third may be emotional.

相对于同龄男性,这些濒临破产的女性接受过更好的教育。其中,大部分人都上过大学,超过一半的女性拥有自己的住所。而她们之所以从中产阶级生活沦落到收入仅高于贫困线的境地,可能是出于三个因素(或其中之一)。其中的两个因素是经济上的,对大多数女性来说第三个因素可能是情感上的。

First, these women tend to be awash in debt. Just about everyone spent above his/her means in the recent bubble, but middle-class women have a special relationship to debt. Many of them have jobs that require them to dip into credit lines just to stay afloat.

首先,这些女性都负债累累。在近年的泡沫经济中,几乎每个人都在超水平消费,但中产阶级的女性与债务之间则有着一种特殊的联系。她们中的许多人因为工作原因必须透支信用额度来维持生活现状。

But others have been successfully targeted by luxury-goods manufacturers and credit-card companies, which benefit from the way that mass culture ties certain kinds of consumerism - the latest designer clothes, this season`s "it" bag, the right highlighting, and even the trendiest sports car - into a narrative of successful femininity.

而另一些中产女性则被奢侈品生产商和信用卡公司成功锁定。大众文化将某些消费主义(如新款时装,当季“it”包,炫目首饰甚至时髦跑车)同人们口中的成功女性形象绑在一起,这些生产商和公司则从中获利。

The second reason that 1 million American women have filed for bankruptcy is that legislation enacted in 2005 now pits individual women - who can`t afford costly legal advice - against credit-card companies in terms of who gets paid first when their former husbands owe delinquent credit-card payments and child-support payments.

第二个导致一百万女性申请破产的因素是,当前夫拖欠信用卡欠款和儿童抚养费时,妻子和信用卡公司谁将首先获得支付这一问题上,2005 年颁布施行的法规使得女性个体(即那些无法支付高昂法律咨询费的女性)与信用卡公司处在对立的位置之上。

These pressures are serious, and both are discussed publicly. But there is frequently a third factor in middle-class women`s economic stress, one that is seldom addressed publicly, much less measured. It has to do with many middle-class women`s emotionally complex expectations and projections about money.

这些压力非同小可,且这两个因素也都曾被公开讨论过。但在中产阶级女性的经济压力中通常还存在第三个经常出现的因素,一个很少被公开讨论、也难以衡量的因素。这个因素与许多中产阶级女性在情感上,对于金钱的复杂期望和规划有关。

In the young women`s leadership program that I help to run, we regularly see middle-class women, more often than working-class women, find it embarrassing to talk about money. When they do bring it up - to employers, for example - they use apologetic, self-defeating language.

在我协助举办的一个年轻女性领导者项目中,我们常常会发现中产阶级女性要比工薪阶层女性更羞于谈论金钱问题。当她们必须与别人(比如雇主)谈及这个问题时,她们往往会变得过于谦卑,甚至说出对自己不利的言语。

Moreover, these women tend to have unrealistic notions about their economic paths. Young, middle-class women often fail to save because they assume - still - that marriage will rescue them financially. As a result, they often see buying trendy shoes or a great haircut - rather than giving some money each month to a broker - as an "investment" in their romantic futures.

不仅如此,这些女性也似乎对自己的经济前景抱有不切实际的想法。年轻的中产阶级女性无法进行储蓄是因为她们认为(现在仍是)结婚能够拯救她们的财力。于是,她们常常花钱购买时髦的鞋子或打理发型,而不是每月留出一些钱交给投资经纪人,她们将这些花销看作是对自己浪漫前景的一种“投资”。

And the familiar clich is all too often true: Older middle-class women fail to become financially literate in their own households, leaving brokerage and pension accounts, taxes, life insurance, and so on to their husbands. This leaves them economically vulnerable when divorce or widowhood strikes.

陈词滥调往往都是正确的:如果把投资账户、养老金账户、税单、人寿保险等都交由丈夫来处理,年龄较大的中产阶级女性将无法学到持家的理财之道。当遭遇离婚或寡居时,这将使她们在经济上非常脆弱。

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