From New York Times business reporter Nelson D. Schwartz comes a gripping investigation of how a virtual velvet rope divides Americans in every arena of life, creating a friction-free existence for those with money on one side and a Darwinian struggle for the middle class on the other side.

In nearly every realm of daily life--from health care to education, highways to home security--there is an invisible velvet rope that divides how Americans live. On one side of the rope, for a price, red tape is cut, lines are jumped, appointments are secured, and doors are opened. On the other side, middle- and working-class Americans fight to find an empty seat on the plane, a place in line with their kids at the amusement park, a college acceptance, or a hospital bed.
     We are all aware of the gap between the rich and everyone else, but when we weren't looking, business innovators stepped in to exploit it, shifting services away from the masses and finding new ways to profit by serving the privileged. And as decision-makers and corporate leaders increasingly live on the friction-free side of the velvet rope, they are less inclined to change--or even notice--the obstacles everyone else must contend with. Schwartz's "must read" book takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of this new reality and shows the toll the velvet rope divide takes on society.
“If you’ve wondered how today’s rich live—why they speed past us at ball games and amusement parks, how a select few never have to wait to see top doctors—you need to read The Velvet Rope Economy. You’ll never look at boarding a plane—or privilege and polarization—the same way.”
—Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit

“Through vivid illustrations and systematic analysis, this brilliantly argued book demonstrates the corrosive impact of growing inequality on society. Almost everywhere one looks—amusement parks, stadiums, planes, college admissions, and health care—we are being segregated into castes. A must read.”
—Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley
 
“Nelson D. Schwartz’s book uses vivid and detailed reporting to advance an important, novel, and ultimately scary argument about the ways that inequality is changing our economy. Anyone interested in the topic of inequality should read this book.”
—Jason Furman, former Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers