Americans save too little, buy too many expensive and unnecessary things, and rationalize away their debts, says Harvard University economist Juliet B. Schor.

In her new book, The Overspent American (Basic Books), Ms. Schor finds 63% of families making $50,000 to $100,000 owe money on credit cards. Many of them claim they still cannot afford all they need, which forces them to work longer hours so they can keep up payments and buy even more things.

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