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After spending his days teaching AP American history and economics at the public Live Oak High School in San Jose, Calif., Matt Barry drives for Uber.

Barry’s wife, Nicole, teaches as well — they each earn $69,000, a combined salary that not long ago was enough to afford a comfortable family life. But due to the astronomical costs in his area, including real estate — a 1,500-square-foot “starter home” costs $680,000 — driving for Uber was a necessity.

“Teachers are killing themselves,” Barry says in Alissa Quart’s new book, “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America[1]” (Ecco), out Tuesday. “I shouldn’t be having to drive Uber at eight o’clock at night on a weekday. I just shut down from the mental toll: grading papers between rides, thinking of what I could be doing instead of driving — like creating a curriculum.”

‘Teachers are killing themselves. I shouldn’t be having to drive Uber at eight o’clock at night on a weekday.’ Matt Barry, teacher and Uber driver

In her book, author Quart lays out how America’s middle class is being wiped out by the cost of living far outpacing salaries while a slew of traditionally secure professions — like teaching — can no longer guarantee a stable enough income to clothe and feed a family.

“Middle-class life is now 30% more expensive than it was 20 years ago,” Quart writes, citing the costs of housing, education, health care and child care in particular. “In some cases the cost of daily life over the last 20 years has doubled.”

In one of her book’s many striking findings, Quart writes that according to a Pew study, “Before the 2008...

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