Land of the Fee: Hidden Costs and the Decline of the American Middle Class | Wilson Center
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Land of the Fee: Hidden Costs and the Decline of the American Middle Class

Scholars and policymakers have identified the primary causes of increasing wealth inequality—fewer good working-class jobs, a rise in finance-driven speculative capitalism, and a surge of tax policy decisions that benefit the ultra-rich, among other factors. However, they miss one commonplace but substantial contributor to the widening divide between the rich and the rest: the explosion of nearly invisible fees in key areas of people’s lives. In Land of the Fee, Fergus explores how financial fees have made society less equal since the 1980s, what policies and policy makers have done to aggravate and remedy this disparity, and the impact of this gap on Americans in general and people of color in particular. 

Devin Fergus is the Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor of History, Black Studies, and Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. In 2018-19, he is the Visiting Professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. He is author of Land of the Fee (2018) and Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics (2009), named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 2010. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, and the Guardian. He received his PhD from Columbia University, and was a former Wilson Center Fellow.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest and the George Washington University History Department for their support.



  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Eric Arnesen

    Professor of History, The George Washington University


  • Devin Fergus

    Former Fellow
    Distinguished Professor of History and Black Studies, University of Missouri