by Kathryn J. EdinH. Luke Shaefer
About the book: A revelatory account of poverty in America so deep that we, as a country, don’t think it exists Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no cash income unless she donated plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna in Chicago often have no food but spoiled milk on weekends. After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen since the mid-1990s — households surviving on virtually no income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to 1.5 million American households, including about 3 million children. Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? Edin has “turned sociology upside down” (Mother Jones) with her procurement of rich — and truthful — interviews. Through the book’s many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge. The authors illuminate a troubling trend: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor. More than a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.
by Matthew Desmond
About the book: New York Times BestsellerFrom Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
by Alice Goffman
About the book: A RIVETING, GROUNDBREAKING ACCOUNT OF HOW THE WAR ON CRIME HASTORN APART INNER-CITY COMMUNITIESForty years in, the tough on crime turn in American politics has spurred a prison boom of historic proportions that disproportionately affects Black communities. It has also torn at the lives of those on the outside. As arrest quotas and high tech surveillance criminalize entire blocks, a climate of fear and suspicion pervades daily life, not only for young men entangled in the legal system, but for their family members and working neighbors. Alice Goffman spent six years in one Philadelphia neighborhood, documenting the routine stops, searches, raids, and beatings that young men navigate as they come of age. In the course of her research, she became roommates with Mike and Chuck, two friends trying to make ends meet between low wage jobs and the drug trade. Like many in the neighborhood, Mike and Chuck were caught up in a cycle of court cases, probation sentences, and low level warrants, with no clear way out. We observe their girlfriends and mothers enduring raids and interrogations, "clean" residents struggling to go to school and work every day as the cops chase down neighbors in the streets, and others eking out a living by providing clean urine, fake documents, and off the books medical care. This fugitive world is the hidden counterpoint to mass incarceration, the grim underside of our nation's social experiment in punishing Black men and their families. While recognizing the drug trade's damage, On The Run reveals a justice system gone awry: it is an exemplary work of scholarship highlighting the failures of the War on Crime, and a compassionate chronicle of the families caught in the midst of it."A remarkable feat of reporting . . . The level of detail in this book and Goffman's ability to understand her subjects' motivations are astonishing―and riveting."―The New York Times Book Review
by Linda Tirado
About the book: The real-life Nickel and Dimed—the author of the wildly popular “Poverty Thoughts” essay tells what it’s like to be working poor in America. ONE OF THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS OF THE YEAR--Esquire “DEVASTATINGLY SMART AND FUNNY. I am the author of Nickel and Dimed, which tells the story of my own brief attempt, as a semi-undercover journalist, to survive on low-wage retail and service jobs. TIRADO IS THE REAL THING.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, from the Foreword As the haves and have-nots grow more separate and unequal in America, the working poor don’t get heard from much. Now they have a voice—and it’s forthright, funny, and just a little bit furious. Here, Linda Tirado tells what it’s like, day after day, to work, eat, shop, raise kids, and keep a roof over your head without enough money. She also answers questions often asked about those who live on or near minimum wage: Why don’t they get better jobs? Why don’t they make better choices? Why do they smoke cigarettes and have ugly lawns? Why don’t they borrow from their parents? Enlightening and entertaining, Hand to Mouth opens up a new and much-needed dialogue between the people who just don’t have it and the people who just don’t get it.
by Gary Rivlin
About the book: For most, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry, for whom shrinking wages, pink slips, and other economic woes spell an opportunity to expand and grow. Over the years, any number of mercenary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high priced products to sell to the credit-hungry ranks of the working poor, from the instant tax refund to the payday loan. In the process, they've created an industry larger than the casino business and proven that even the pawnbrokers and check cashers, if they dream big enough, can grow very, very rich off those with thin wallets. Looking back across three decades, Gary Rivlin uncovers how the poverty industry actually invented the predatory subprime loan in the 1980s - eventually inspiring the likes of Countrywide and Wells Fargo to repurpose these toxic products for the USA's middle class. As Rivlin's tale reveals, these large chains are not only making fat profits and contributing to our current financial crisis - they are at the heart of it. "Broke, USA" is Rivlin's riveting report from the economic fringes. From the annual meeting of the national check cashers association in Las Vegas, to a tour of the foreclosure-riddled neighbourhoods of Dayton, OH, it's a subprime Fast Food Nation featuring an unforgettable cast of characters and memorable scenes. As Wall Street and the White House struggle to save the economy from collapse, Rivlin travels across the country profiling players ranging from a former small-town Tennessee debt collector whose business offering cash advances to the country's working poor has earned him a net worth in the hundreds of millions, to legendary Wall Street dealmaker Sandy Weill, who rode a subprime loan business into control of the nation's largest bank. He parallels their stories with the tale of those committed souls fighting back against the major corporations, chain franchises, and newly hatched enterprises that are fleecing the country's hard-working waitresses, warehouse workers, and mall clerks. Timely, shocking, and powerful, "Broke, USA" offers a much needed look at why our country is in a financial mess and gives voice to the millions of ordinary Americans left devastated in its wake.
by Elizabeth Warren,Amelia Warren Tyagi
About the book: In this revolutionary exposé, Harvard Law School bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren and financial consultant Amelia Tyagi show that today's middle-class parents are increasingly trapped by financial meltdowns. Astonishingly, sending mothers to work has made families more vulnerable to financial disaster than ever before. Today's two-income family earns 75% more money than its single-income counterpart of a generation ago, but has 25% less discretionary income to cover living costs. This is "the rare financial book that sidesteps accusations of individual wastefulness to focus on institutional changes," raved the Boston Globe. Warren and Tyagi reveal how the ferocious bidding war for housing and education has silently engulfed America's suburbs, driving up the cost of keeping families in the middle class. The authors show why the usual remedies-child-support enforcement, subsidized daycare, and higher salaries for women-won't solve the problem. But as the Wall Street Journal observed, "The book is brimming with proposed solutions to the nail-biting anxiety that the middle class finds itself in: subsidized day care, school vouchers, new bank regulation, among other measures." From Senator Edward M. Kennedy to Dr. Phil to Bill Moyers, The Two-Income Trap has created a sensation among economists, politicians, and families-all those who care about America's middle-class crisis.
by William Julius Wilson
About the book: Wilson, one of our foremost authorities on race and poverty, challenges decades of liberal and conservative pieties to look squarely at the devastating effects that joblessness has had on our urban ghettos. Marshaling a vast array of data and the personal stories of hundreds of men and women, Wilson persuasively argues that problems endemic to America's inner cities--from fatherless households to drugs and violent crime--stem directly from the disappearance of blue-collar jobs in the wake of a globalized economy. Wilson's achievement is to portray this crisis as one that affects all Americans, and to propose solutions whose benefits would be felt across our society. At a time when welfare is ending and our country's racial dialectic is more strained than ever, When Work Disappears is a sane, courageous, and desperately important work."Wilson is the keenest liberal analyst of the most perplexing of all American problems...[This book is] more ambitious and more accessible than anything he has done before."--The New Yorker
by William Julius Wilson
About the book: A preeminent sociologist of race explains a groundbreaking new framework for understanding racial inequality, challenging both conservative and liberal dogma. In this timely and provocative contribution to the American discourse on race, William Julius Wilson applies an exciting new analytic framework to three politically fraught social problems: the persistence of the inner-city ghetto, the plight of low-skilled black males, and the fragmentation of the African American family. Though the discussion of racial inequality is typically ideologically polarized. Wilson dares to consider both institutional and cultural factors as causes of the persistence of racial inequality. He reaches the controversial conclusion that while structural and cultural forces are inextricably linked, public policy can only change the racial status quo by reforming the institutions that reinforce it.
by Sharon Hays
About the book: Hailed as a great success, welfare reform resulted in a dramatic decline in the welfare rolls--from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2 million in 2003. But what does this "success" look like to the welfare mothers and welfare caseworkers who experienced it? In Flat Broke With Children, Sharon Hays tells us the story of welfare reform from inside the welfare office and inside the lives of welfare mothers, describing the challenges that welfare recipients face in managing their work, their families, and the rules and regulations of welfare reform. Welfare reform, experienced on the ground, is not a rosy picture. The majority of adult welfare clients are mothers--over 90 percent--and the time limits imposed by welfare reform throw millions of these mostly unmarried, desperate women into the labor market, where they must accept low wages, the most menial work, the poorest hours, with no benefits, and little flexibility. Hays provides a vivid portrait of their lives--debunking many of the stereotypes we have of welfare recipients--but she also steps back to explore what welfare reform reveals about the meaning of work and family life in our society. In particular, she argues that an inherent contradiction lies at the heart of welfare policy, which emphasizes traditional family values even as its ethic of "personal responsibility" requires women to work and leave their children in childcare or at home alone all day long. Hays devoted three years to visiting welfare clients and two welfare offices, one in a medium-sized town in the Southeast, another in a large, metropolitan area in the West. Drawing on this hands-on research, Flat Broke With Children is the first book to explore the impact of welfare reform on motherhood, marriage, and work in women's lives, and the first book to offer us a portrait of how welfare reform plays out in thousands of local welfare offices and in millions of homes across the nation.