Two American Families

This series follows two American families over a 21-year period, documenting their struggles in a changing American economy.  While I highly recommend that SavvyReaders take the time to watch each individual segment, the final segment in the series, Two American Families, does provide a recap of events from the first three segments in the series.

Minimum Wages: The New Economy (1992)

Bill Moyers takes a piercing look at how global economic changes are destroying the lives and livelihoods of hardworking Americans. This documentary follows several individuals and their families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as they fight to make ends meet in the “new economy.” In sheer numbers, more jobs were created than lost in America during the last decade, but a look behind those numbers reveals a shortage of jobs that pay enough to support a family. The program intimately portrays the lives of workers and their families as they struggle to make it in today’s job market.

Two American Families

Living on the Edge (1995)

This second segment takes a more detailed look at two of the families, the Neumanns and Stanleys, introduced in Minimum Wages: The New Economy.  It provides updates on the two hardworking Milwaukee families struggling with low-paying jobs after previous employers downsized their operations.  In both cases, they struggle to hang onto the American dream.

Surviving the Good Times (2000)

The dramatic story of two blue-collar Milwaukee families – the Neumanns and the Stanleys – continues in this segment.  As they struggle to find their place in the new economy, living from paycheck to paycheck through good times and bad, both families confront choices that have far-reaching consequences for the American way of life.

Two American Families (2013)

This segment concludes the series – and the stories – of the two American families, the Neumanns and the Stanleys.  This concluding segment marks their progress as measured over roughly two-year intervals until 2000. It then returns a dozen years later to check back with them as they dealt with home foreclosures, a struggling economy, medical bills, and strained or fractured marital ties.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. James, this series sounds very interesting. I like the one about minimum wage.

    I have to make some time to watch one of them.

    • Actually, the are all part of the same series. The lives, and fates, of these two families is followed over a 20+ year period. It’s certainly worth a few hours of your time. I look forward to getting your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to check it out.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I watched each segment and agree it is definitely worth watching. It was very insightful and underscores the importance of education at an early age; especially financial education. Great website. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation and the great feedback, Anthony. They are definitely worth a viewing and quite an eye opener. The stories of the Neumanns and Stanleys illustrate that it takes more than a willingness to work hard to achieve – and maintain – financial success. A big part of that, as you note, is financial literacy education.

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