Synopses & Reviews
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.
“Affluent Americans often cherish the belief that poverty in America is far more comfortable than poverty in the rest of the world. Edin and Shaefer's devastating account of life at $2 or less a day blows that myth out of the water. This is world class poverty at a level that should mobilize not only national alarm, but international attention.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickeled and Dimed
Bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz is one of this country's foremost writers on the ever explosive issue of race. Inthis gripping and ultimately profound book, Kotlowitz takes us to two towns in southern Michigan, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, separated by the St. Joseph River. Geographically close, but worlds apart, they are a living metaphor for America's racial divisions: St. Joseph is a prosperous lakeshore community and ninety-five percent white, while Benton Harbor is impoverished and ninety-two percent black. When the body of a black teenaged boy from Benton Harbor is found in the river, unhealed wounds and suspicions between the two towns' populations surface as well. The investigation into the young man's death becomes, inevitably, a screen on which each town projects their resentments and fears.The Other Side of the Riversensitively portrays the lives and hopes of the towns' citizens as they wrestle with this mystery--and reveals the attitudes and misperceptions that undermine race relations throughout America."
In The Other Side of the River, Kotlowitz brings readers to two Michigan towns, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Separated by the St. Joseph River, they are geographically close, yet worlds apart: St. Joseph is a 95 percent white, prosperous lakeshore community, while Benton Harbor is impoverished and 92 percent black. When the body of a black teenage boy from Benton Harbor is found in the river, unhealed wounds and suspicions between the two towns populations surface as well. The investigation into Eric Mcginnis's death inevitably becomes a screen onto which each community projects its resentments and fears. Beautifully written and painstakingly reported, The Other Side of the River sensitively portrays the lives and hopes of the towns' citizens as they wrestle with this mystery and others - and reveals the attitudes and misperceptions that undermine race relations throughout America. This powerful story challenges us to think about our own assumptions about race, no matter which side of the river we live on.
The story of a kind of poverty in America so deep that we, as a country, don't even think exists—from a leading national poverty expert who “defies convention” (New York Times)
About the Author
KATHRYN J. EDIN is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers, recognized for using both quantitative research and direct, in-depth observation to illuminate key mysteries about people living in poverty: “In a field of poverty experts who rarely meet the poor, Edin usefully defies convention” (New York Times). Her books include Promises I Can't Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage and Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City. Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
H. LUKE SHAEFER is an associate professor at the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and a research affiliate at the National Poverty Center.