Poverty, by America
by Matthew Desmond
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a sweeping argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.
The United States is the richest country on earth, yet it has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in five of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay workers poverty wages?
In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond sets forth a new and hard-won answer to this question, revealing that there is so much poverty in America not in spite of our wealth but because of it. Drawing on history, research, and original reporting, he argues that affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly work to keep poor people poor. The well-off exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. Those of us who are financially secure prioritize the subsidization of affluence over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside zones of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.
This fiercely argued and compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original case for eliminating poverty in America and shows how we can all be part of that effort. His book calls on us to become true poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of equity.
Hardcover | 304 pages | Penguin Random House | 2023
Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and the founding director of Princeton’s Eviction Lab. His last book, Evicted, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, among others. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Desmond is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.
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