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, 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.
About the Author
Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and the founding director of the Eviction Lab. His last book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, 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.
“[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
“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.”—Salon
“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
“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