A revelatory account of poverty in America so deep that we, as a country, don’t think it exists.
Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no income if she didn’t 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 hadn’t seen before — households 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 book’s 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 America’s extreme poor. Not just a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.
"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 Nickel and Dimed
“In $2.00 a Day, Kathryn 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 wel- fare reform — and then blow the lid off what has happened in the decades after- ward. Edin and Shaefer’s portraits of people in Chicago, Mississippi, Tennessee, Baltimore, and elsewhere, forced into underground, damaging survival strategies here in First World America, are truly unforgettable. This is income inequality at its most hidden and most stark.”
— Michael Eric Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water
“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 cripple 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 re- quired reading for everyone.”
— Peter Edelman, author of So Rich, So Poor