#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a “provocative and compelling” (NPR) argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.
ONE OF THE CALIFORNIA REVIEW OF BOOKS’ TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Oprah Daily, Time, The Star Tribune, Vulture, The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Public Library, Esquire, She Reads, Library Journal
“Urgent and accessible . . . Its moral force is a gut punch.”—The New Yorker
Longlisted for the Inc. Non-Obvious Book Award • Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
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.
“A searing, essential book . . .[that] solidifies Desmond’s status as a remarkable chronicler of our times.”—Vulture
“The passion, eloquence, and lively storytelling that made Evicted a Pulitzer Prize–winning bestseller are back in force as Desmond continues to speak on behalf of America’s most hard-pressed. Desmond is our national conscience.”—Oprah Daily
“Desmond’s new book is short, smart, and thrilling. The thrill comes from the sheer boldness of Desmond’s argument and his carefully modulated but very real tone of outrage that underlies his words.”—Rolling Stone
“[Desmond’s] arguments have the potential to push debate about wealth in America to a new level. . . . The brilliance of Poverty, By America . . . is provided by effective storytelling, which illustrates that poverty has become a way of life.”—The Guardian
“Poverty, by America is a searing moral indictment of how and why the United States tolerates such high levels of poverty and of inequality . . . [and] a hands-on call to action.”—The Nation
“A fierce polemic on an enduring problem . . . [Desmond] writes movingly about the psychological scars of poverty . . . and his prose can be crisp, elegant, and elegiac.”—The Economist
“Provocative and compelling . . . [Desmond] packs in a sweeping array of examples and numbers to support his thesis and . . . the accumulation has the effect of shifting one’s brain ever so slightly to change the entire frame of reference.”—NPR
“A data-driven manifesto that turns a critical eye on those who inflict and perpetuate unlivable conditions on others.”—The Boston Globe
“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. 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
“[T]hrough in-depth research and original reporting, the acclaimed sociologist offers solutions that would help spread America’s wealth and make everyone more prosperous.”—Time
“Desmond’s book makes an urgent and unignorable appeal to our national conscience, one that has been quietly eroded over decades of increasing personal consumption and untiring corporate greed.”—Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine
“[Poverty, by America is] a book that could alter the way you see the world. . . . It reads almost like a passionate speech, urging us to dig deeper, to forget what we think we know as we try to understand the inequities upon which America was built. . . . A surprisingly hopeful work.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Desmond’s electrifying pen cuts through the usual evasions and exposes the ‘selfish,’ ‘dishonest’ and ‘sinful’ pretence that poverty is a problem that America cannot afford to fix, rather than one it chooses not to.”—Prospect
“A powerful polemic, one that has expanded and deepened my understanding of American poverty. Desmond approaches the subject with a refreshing candidness and directs his ire toward all the right places.”—Roxane Gay
“Passionate and empathetic.”—Salon
“This book is essential and instructive, hopeful and enraging.”—Ann Patchett