Living on $2 Per Day

The Atlantic recently published a brief, riveting account of a poor mother of two young girls who sells her plasma in order to pay bills. It's an excerpt from a new book by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer: $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. If you need a primer on how extreme income inequality has become in America, start here.

First, there's no pity in this glimpse of the 21-year-old woman in the story. It portrays her as determined, resourceful, and inventive--in other words she doesn't resent her situation. She's just dealing with it. Without better options, she's simply doing what needs to be done. Others at her income level in Johnson City, Tennessee, where she lives, resort to sex work, drug trafficking, and under-the-table, off-the-books jobs. In other words, she's found one of the least degrading ways to feed her kids. Yet even her own plasma is not a sure sale: she takes iron supplements to ensure it passes quality tests. If it doesn't, it's worthless to the clinic (though it would continue to keep her alive by running through her veins.) She can make $30 per donation, ten times per month. Her husband can't: he's had too many tattoos, which disqualify him. The rules are strict, in order to keep the plasma safe and pure. So his job is to walk his wife and kids to the plasma clinic. The Atlantic reports: