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$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America Hardcover – September 1, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A remarkable book that could very well change the way we think about poverty in the United States . . .  This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what Michael Harrington’s ‘The Other Americans’ achieved in the late 1960s—arousing both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens.  The rise of such absolute poverty since the passage of welfare reform belies all the categorical talk about opportunity and the American dream.”
—The New York Times Book Review

"With any luck (calling Bernie Sanders) this important book will spark election year debate over how America cares for its most vulnerable."
—Mother Jones

“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

"In $2.00 A Day, Kathy Edin and Luke Shaefer reveal a shameful truth about our prosperous nation:  many—far too many—get by on what many of us spend on coffee each day.  It's a chilling book, and should be essential reading for all of us."
—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

“Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer deliver an incisive pocket history of 1990s welfare reform—and then blow the lid off what has happened in the decades afterward.  Edin’s and Shaefer’s portraits of people in Chicago, Mississippi, Tennessee, Baltimore, and more forced into underground, damaging survival strategies, here in first-world America, are truly chilling.  This is income inequality in America at its most stark and most hidden.”
—Michael Eric Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster

“Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, with compelling statistics and wrenching human stories, illustrate how—with incomes far below the pay of low-wage jobs that cripples families by the millions—a shocking number of Americans live in an almost unimaginable depth of poverty, with near-zero incomes. We have let the bottom go out of the American economy. This powerful book should be required reading for everyone.”
—Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse  Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center and author, So Rich So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America  

“This searing look at extreme poverty deftly mixes policy research and heartrending narratives... Mixing academic seriousness and deft journalistic storytelling, this work may well move readers to positive action.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“An eye-opening account of the lives ensnared in the new poverty cycle.”
 —Kirkus Reviews

“A close-up, heartbreaking look at rising poverty and income inequality in the U.S.”

Book Description

HMH hardcover, 2015. Previous ISBN: 978-0-544-30318-8.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544303180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544303188
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dame Droiture VINE VOICE on August 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book makes me want to thank my mother, profusely, for everything she did for me/us while I was growing up. Until reading this exposé, I hadn't really realized that some of her own strategies *were* actually strategies -- I just thought that, for example, going to the library a few times a week was what everyone did.

It also made me think to the time I spent living in the Bronx during grad school (yes!), making dismal adjunct wages relative to New York City living conditions. My neighbors would occasionally see me out reading on my stoop -- not making dinner --, and one family in particular paid special attention: even though the 3 of them (a mother, father, and teenage daughter) lived in a one-bedroom apartment, they often brought me a plate of whatever meal they had made. I knew that they did not have much, but of course to refuse the meal would be rude (and besides, the food was hearty and delicious). Since meeting them, I have had a soft spot for the supposed "lazy" people who get government subsidies. Some, like the family I knew, made do fairly well with what they had. Others, such as the people featured in this book, could only *wish* they had enough food to share.

In some senses, $2 A Day preaches to the choir; it's likely that those who are buying and reading the book 1) aren't in the position of its case studies, 2) already know there's a problem with how America's poor are "dealt with," and 3) are already fairly sympathetic to the issues that this volume addresses. But in many other ways, the book is, not to sound too cliché, a revelation. For one, the notion that "we, as a country, aren't spending less on poor families than we once did. ...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After reading Barbara Ehrenreich's NICKEL AND DIMED, my understanding of minimum-wage jobs changed a great deal because I came to realize just how that role in the United States' labor markets has changed. Her exploration of how difficult it is for a lone person to survive on those wages tore down the romantic, politically motivated perception that mostly students rely on those jobs, an old notion held over from a time when many of us could earn two semesters' worth of university experience over a summer of working them. Those times have past.

Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer follow the further consequences of this shift in American life in $2.00 A DAY: LIVING ON ALMOST NOTHING IN AMERICA. Like NICKEL AND DIMED, $2.00 A DAY mixes personal profiles, social analysis, and political timelines to indicate how so many of our fellow citizens have become mired in such crippling poverty. The distance between political expediency and immediate need remains a strong focus throughout the work.

It's time to meet some of your neighbors you may not have seen yet. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wanted to champion this book. I've lived beneath the poverty level my entire adult life. In fact, for most of the 1980s I lived on $80 a month food stamps, and daily trips to the mission for food. I'm one of the very worst examples of what Reagan's dismantling of social benefits has done to this country. I've seen abject poverty, and know its misery. Once I read this book, I was appalled at the manner in which Kathryn Edin portrayed destitute poverty. Although I found the actual sociological information about the rise of the welfare system, along with its fall, quite helpful, that's not what this book is mostly about. Nor does it offer many viable solutions to this problem, if solutions are even to be hoped for. Instead, the book is overfilled with the most outlandish collection of hard luck stories, uttered by people, the majority of whom, come across as sociopaths. Why did she chose these people, and voice their tales in such over the top, tear jerker vocabulary? Far from feeling empathy for the poor, after reading this book, you're more likely to walk away thinking that people who live on $2 a day for food, do so due to their own irresponsibility and poor life choices. Edin herself uses language that would validate the worst anti-welfare, "Nanny State" rhetoric of the most viscous Fox News commentator. I honestly wonder if this book wasn't intended as reverse propaganda, to end welfare, rather than promote some ideas on how to help these people by expanding the entitlement programs.

If you look at some of the other reviews, you'll notice others who question these characters Edin describes in her book. The first example I might make, is a young woman named Modonna. She had a job at a cash register for 7 years, but one day came up short $10 and is fired. No second chances.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Get in touch with what's really happening to American citizens by reading this book. It's not long and it's filled with interesting anecdotes of real life situations from around the country. Yes, it's nonfiction, so it has some pesky facts embedded, but it is a real eye-opener to all of us who are lulled to complacency by political ads and marketing which make us feel proud that we are meeting the basic needs of all our people, when we are not!

As a country we have a lot of major problems: a lack of living wage jobs, not enough affordable housing, diminished educational opportunities, crumbling infrastructure, reduced or non-existent public transportation, overwhelmed healthcare providers, etc.
What used to be the middle class is sliding into poverty and people are scrambling for the few programs of support available in limited supply.

But what seems to be the biggest and baddest situation is the way the old welfare system was killed off and replaced with just two things: a temporary supplement to someone with a job so they could establish a residence, and SNAP, a program to provide food. Nothing was put in place to handle utility bills, and examples showed how this one hole drastically affected people all over the country. How it set them scrambling to fill that hole by shorting other needs, having to do immoral or even illegal deeds just to get enough cash to keep lights on and toilets flushing. Or doing without and suffering all sorts of consequences to health and life.
That's what's so devastating about the "$2.00 a Day" poverty our nation has inflicted upon so many.
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