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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Poverty, by America

Narrator: Dion Graham

Random House Audio

ISBN: 9780593239919

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: 03/21/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a new and bracing argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2023: The Washington Post, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Elle, Salon, Lit Hub, Kirkus Reviews

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight 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 poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth 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 those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

My Review

Acclaimed Princeton sociologist and bestselling Pulitzer Prize–winning author Matthew Desmond, for Evicted (5 stars)—a powerful novel about families struggling with eviction and housing—returns with an insightful, timely, and critical follow-up— POVERTY, AMERICA exploring the high poverty levels of the U.S. and why.

Why is there so much poverty in America? This and more—why Desmond wrote this book. He wanted a clear and convincing case of why there is so much hardship in this land of abundance.

His conclusion: we could, as a society, alleviate poverty—if only we give up benefitting from poverty ourselves. The exploitation of the poor and powerless.

We are the wealthiest country on earth, with more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Almost one in nine Americans—including one in eight children—live in poverty.

More than 38 million people in the U.S. cannot afford basic necessities, and more than 108 million are getting by on $55K or less a year, many stuck between poverty and security.

Over two million Americans do not have running water or a flushable toilet at home. More than a million of our public schoolchildren are homeless, living in motels, cars, shelters, and abandoned buildings. They find their health improves if they arrive in prison, which is sad.

We must understand the nature of poverty by looking beyond the poor. Those of privilege and plenty must examine themselves.

POVERTY, AMERICA—is not a book about poverty, but instead a book about how the other half lives, about how some lives are made small— so that the others may grow. Poverty, By America, shows how the rest of us benefit by keeping others poor.

Desmond answers these questions about Poverty in America in his eye-opening, well-researched, and well-written book. He lays out why and makes a valid case for how to eliminate it.

Unfortunately, Poverty in America continues to be a problem because the people who are not in poverty benefit from the situation and continue to do so, and nothing changes. It only becomes worse.

Desmond offers and outlines solutions to help spread America's wealth and make everyone more prosperous. People are exploiting others and may not even be conscious of their behavior.

To eliminate rent-gouging and neglected properties, we need to expand housing opportunities for low-income families. He explains that there is not a single right way but a wrong way: how we are doing it now.

Ending poverty in America will require new policies and renewed political movements. There are real estate, banking, and numerous other factors that contribute to poverty levels.

As Desmond reiterates, it also requires that each of us, in our way, become poverty abolitionists, unwinding ourselves from our neighbors' deprivation and reusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.

The authors' notes are plentiful for further reading, study, and discussions. Poverty is our fight, and we must ask community organizations, employers, places of worship, schools, political parties, museums, courts, towns, and families to join.

The lower-income families are locked out of nice safe neighborhoods due to high rents and no or lower credit. From higher interest rates on mortgages that are out of their reach. Desmond's analysis finds that U.S. landlords in poor neighborhoods typically make double the profit of richer ones.

Poor people are also hit with billions in bank overdraft fees yearly, a policy that became more widespread after banking deregulation in the 1980s. I was in banking during this period and saw this firsthand.

Then poor rely on payday-loan and check-cashing companies when the banks fail them with even higher interest rates, while the investors and financial institutions back them earn good money off the venture.

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor; and if one is a member of a captive population, economically speaking, one's feet have simply been placed on the treadmill forever.”― James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name

We must ask ourselves and our leaders —What are we doing to divest from poverty? Every person, company, and institution has a role in contributing to poverty and a role in eliminating it.

It is about the millions of decisions we make daily when going about our business. Desmond believes we should worry about the systems that keep that person there and us in our comfortable homes.

"The End of Poverty is something to stand for, march for, and sacrifice for."

Poverty is a dream killer and a waste of human potential. We need to end it, and each person must contribute to ending this problem in America. To correct poverty is our fight.

“Poverty isn’t simply the condition of not having enough money,” Desmond writes. “It’s the condition of not having enough choice and being taken advantage of because of that.”

POVERTY ABOLITIONIST: To be a poverty abolitionist means avoiding businesses that don’t treat their workers fairly among others— even small things that add up to big things if enough people are on board.

Poverty will only be abolished when a mass movement stirs. All of us can learn from, support, and join activities led by those with this knowledge.

Thought-provoking, powerful, masterfully written, and compelling—it packs a punch. I highly recommend POVERTY BY AMERICA and EVICTED for every person, family, company, school, court, institution, and government leader. Well-done!

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: March 21, 2023



“[Poverty, by America] shows how wealthy and middle class Americans knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate a broken system that keeps poor people poor. It’s not an easy problem to fix, but through in-depth research and original reporting, the acclaimed sociologist offers solutions that would help spread America’s wealth and make everyone more prosperous.” Time

“Urgent and accessible . . . It’s refreshing to read a work of social criticism that eschews the easy and often smug allure of abstraction, in favor of plainspoken practicality. Poverty, by America deserves to be one of those books you see people reading on the subway, or handing around at organizing meetings, or citing in congressional hearings. Its moral force is a gut punch.”

—The New Yorker

“A compact jeremiad on the persistence of extreme want in a nation of extraordinary wealth . . . [Desmond’s] purpose here is to draw attention to what’s plain in front of us—damn the etiquette, and damn the grand abstractions.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“With Poverty, by America, [Desmond] blends history, research, and firsthand reporting to show how the wealthy punish the poor and keep people living in poverty, both purposefully and without realizing. Passionate and empathetic.”


“This is the kind of awareness we desperately need to start to change this broken, cruel system.”


“The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted returns with another paradigm-shifting inquiry into America’s dark heart. . . . As always, Desmond delivers a radical vision: a book that urges us to abandon old ways of thinking and dream a new path forward.”


“A short manifesto interspersed with compelling anecdotes and infused with passionate clarity . . . [Desmond is] an intimate and sensitive chronicler of inequality in American life.”

—The Progressive

“A powerful inquiry . . . 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.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A brilliantly researched and artfully written study of how the U.S. has failed to effectively address the issue of poverty . . . [Desmond] 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.”

—Booklist (starred review)

“Urgent and accessible . . . Its moral force is a gut punch.” —The New Yorker

"Reading Poverty, by America, I felt like Matthew Desmond was sitting at my kitchen table, explaining the complexities of poverty in a way I could completely understand. This book is essential and instructive, hopeful and enraging. It is a road map for how we can be better people, working together to build a better country."

—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth



“This book gave me a better sense of what it is like to be very poor in this country than anything else I have read. . . . It is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and unforgettable.”

—Bill Gates

“Astonishing... Desmond has set a new standard for reporting on poverty."

—Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Book Review

“Evicted stands among the very best of the social justice books.”

—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth

“Gripping and moving—tragic, too.”

—Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones

“Evicted is that rare work that has something genuinely new to say about poverty.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Photo: © Barron Bixler

Matthew Desmond is a professor of sociology at Princeton University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he joined the Harvard Society of Fellows as a Junior Fellow. He is the author of four books, including Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), which won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, Carnegie Medal, and PEN / John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. The principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, Desmond’s research focuses on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality, and ethnography. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and the William Julius Wilson Early Career Award. A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Desmond was listed in 2016 among the Politico 50, as one of “fifty people across the country who are most influencing the national political debate.” WEBSITE

Matthew Desmond’s book ‘Poverty, by America’ coming in 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — Matthew Desmond’s first book since his Pulitzer Prize winning “Evicted” is not just a study of who is poor in the world’s richest country. It also asks why.

Crown will publish “Poverty, by America” on March 21, 2023. According to Crown, Desmond will document how the wealthy harm the poor, knowingly and unknowingly.

“Books about poverty, including ‘Evicted,’ tend to be books about the poor, tend to bear witness,” Desmond said in a statement issued Wednesday by Crown. “But they cannot answer the most fundamental question, which is: Why all this poverty in this land of abundance? I’ve learned that that question requires a different approach. To understand the causes of poverty, we must hold a mirror up to ourselves. Are we — we the secure, the insured, the housed, the college educated, the lucky — somehow responsible for all this suffering?”

Desmond’s “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” was published in 2016 and focused on eight families in an impoverished area of Milwaukee. Besides the Pulitzer, the book received an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and a National Book Critics Circle award. Former President Barack Obama listed it among the favorite books he read in 2017.

Desmond is a professor of sociology at Princeton University and a contributing writer to The New York Times magazine.







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