PBS Books, in collaboration with WTTW in Chicago, hosts Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton University to discuss his latest release “Poverty, by America.”
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.
Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During professor of sociology at Princeton University and the founding director of the Eviction Lab, a lab that studies housing insecurity and evictions in the United States. His previous book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award and a 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. His latest release, “Poverty, by America,” will be featured at the 2023 National Book Festival.