- 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: 259 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America Hardcover – September 1, 2015
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—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."
“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.”
"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.”
“A close-up, heartbreaking look at rising poverty and income inequality in the U.S.”
From the Inside Flap
Jessica Comptons family of four would have no income if she didnt donate plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna, in Chicago, have gone for days with nothing to eat other than spoiled milk.
After two decades of groundbreaking research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadnt seenhouseholds surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin, whose deep examination of her subjects lives has turned sociology upside down (Mother Jones), teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on surveys of the incomes of the poor. The two made a surprising discovery: the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children.
But the fuller story remained to be told. Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? What do they do to survive? In search of answers, Edin and Shaefer traveled across the country to speak with families living in this extreme poverty. Through the books many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among Americas extreme poor. Not just a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.
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When I purchased this book, I thought it was a book about how to live on $2.00 a day. I didn't realize it was a horrific look at people who were living on $2 a day! The writing drew me in and the stories kept me reading. I cried for the harshness of the world as I read things I never thought about before. It never dawned on me that house cleaners would have to haul their own water to derelict houses to clean because the water was turned off. I never thought about what you do when there is only so much money for gas and your roommate uses all of it, leaving you unable to drive to work.
This book is very well written and very well researched. It is one I will keep and look back on when I feel that my life is tough, because my life is not as tough as the people cameoed in the book.
Imagine if you had to live on $2.00 a day, with no other cash available. Either you find a place to sleep with friends, relatives or you spend time in a shelter until you are not allowed to stay any longer. Imagine, to, that you want to work, but due to physical ailments or lack of work you are unable to get, and keep a job. That is happening in America today and to me, it is unacceptable.
The authors looked to find families in these straights and, surprisingly to the authors, they had little trouble finding people living under such conditions. The book evaluates the lives a a number of these families in several parts of the country, and then examines ways that the situation could be minimized, if not eliminated.
In addition, the authors examined various forms of welfare from the 1930s until today, and pointed out which forms worked, which didn't and which could be made better with tweaks to the system. The authors do not advocate returning to the cash welfare model that existed until the mid 1990s, but rather improve the systems we have today. For example, cash assistance is still available to the truly needy, but Washington gave this assistance to states as block grants, allowing them wide latitude over how the money would be spent. And surprise….most did away with almost all cash assistance, and used the money in other ways. The authors advocate for the levels of money stay the same, but changing the rules and making the states use the money for its intended purpose.
The book is interesting and eye opening. Who would have thought that one of the most prosperous nations on earth could have such poverty levels right under our noses. I was disappointed that the authors chose to examine families only to the east of the Mississippi River, as there is poverty here in California that rivals and may even exceed that found in the east. By removing the west coast, it made it seem like all the poverty was located in eastern states.
A recommended read for all.
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. ... In fact, we now spend much more" struck me in particular, and signals that the very readership the book probably targets are also probably the most able and willing to address the problems.
While the book sometimes veers into moderately-lengthy analyses of government policies, which might tire some readers, I feel that it presents a good mixture between these and the case studies showing these policies "at work," so to speak. I don't think this book will be the next Freshman Read, but I do think it can hold its own in the roster of readable sociology texts for perhaps the next decade. (Hopefully, the next book coming out won't present a worse picture of things.) If anything, it makes one think about what one has, or hasn't had.