LS2 Kids  |  My Account  |  Help  

Poverty, By America

by Matthew Desmond

Publishers Weekly Pulitzer winner Desmond follows up Evicted with a powerful inquiry into why the U.S. is “the richest country on earth, with more poverty than any other advanced democracy.” Noting that 38 million Americans cannot afford basic necessities, Desmond argues that poverty persists because others benefit from it: workers are paid non-living wages and unions are discouraged in order to boost the pay of corporate executives; poor consumers are overcharged for rental housing and financial services so that landlords and banks can prosper; and affluent families benefit from tax breaks, student loans, and other forms of federal aid while welfare programs are publicly belittled and made difficult to access. Poverty is further entrenched by the underfunding of education, mass transit, and healthcare, Desmond argues, creating a world of private opulence and public squalor. His solutions include eliminating the residential segregation that blocks poor families from well-funded public services and employment and housing opportunities. More broadly, he calls for better-off Americans to acknowledge their complicity in perpetuating poverty and to pressure the government to undertake “an aggressive, uncompromising antipoverty agenda.” Though the path to achieving these reforms isn’t always clear, Desmond enriches his detailed and trenchant analysis with poignant reflections on America’s “unblushing inequality” and the “anomie of wealth.” It’s a gut-wrenching call for change. Agent: Katherine Flynn, Kneerim & Williams. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Sociologist and MacArthur fellow Desmond follows up his Carnegie Medal–winning Evicted (2016) with a brilliantly researched and artfully written study of how the U.S. has failed to effectively address the issue of poverty. Grounding his thesis in statistics that defy easy analysis and show that the ebb and flow of the problem continues regardless of political leadership, recession, or economic boom, he provides readers with unforgettable images—“if America’s poor founded a country . . . [it] would have a bigger population than Australia or Venezuela”—and pointed truths about how individual states failed to allocate funds to assist their poor. For example, Oklahoma spent tens of millions in federal poverty funds on the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. Arizona used millions on abstinence-only education. Maine supported a Christian summer camp, and Mississippi officials committed fraud on a scale that has led to multiple indictments. Thankfully, as Desmond reveals the frustrating ways in which private and public systems designed to help the poor have fallen short, he also uses his knowledge of the subject to explore what works and identify potential solutions that merit further consideration. This thoughtful investigation of a critically important subject, a piercing title by an astute writer who is both passionate and fearless, is valuable reading for all concerned with affecting positive change.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Pulitzer Prize—winning sociologist Desmond (Evicted) argues that poverty exists in the United States because wealthy people benefit from it. While the United States ranks among the richest countries in the world, it has the largest amount of poverty; the author expects that to expand. Presently, every one in three Americans work in low-paying jobs, one in eight live in severe poverty, and the wealth gap between Black and white families remains large. For example, in the average white family, the head of household with a high school diploma is better paid than the head of a Black household with a college degree. The author also points to when most white women did not have to work outside their home; whereas Black women, to survive, had to work any job available. The author suggests solutions by advocating for what he calls "poverty abolitionists," people he hopes will insist on collective bargaining and producing true economic rewards for workers. He also urges the government to end hunger and create laws that ensure all Americans make a livable wage. VERDICT This book will likely interest scholars. Add it to social and behavioral sciences collections.—Claude Ury

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted. “America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point. A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Author of the Pulitzer Prize—winning Evicted, a game changer that has sold over 750,000 copies, MacArthur fellow Desmond considers why the uber-wealthy United States has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. It's precisely because of that wealth, he argues, with the affluent benefiting from keeping poor people poor, whether by suppressing wages, driving up housing costs, or continuing to monopolize money and opportunities they already have.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

102 North State Street  |  P. O. Box 183  |  Joice, IA 50446-0183  |  Phone: 641-588-3330
Powered by: YouSeeMore © The Library Corporation (TLC)