Booklist Review

Nearly one of every 25 American households, or 1.5 million, live on less than $2 per day per person, defying every image of what it means to live in the developed world. Sociologist Edin and researcher Shaefer document a troubling trend since the enactment of welfare reform and the decline in worker wages. American families in urban and rural areas, across all races and family structures, are living on wages so low they can barely sustain themselves. Focusing on families in the inner cities of Chicago and Cleveland; the small Appalachian town of Johnson City, Tennessee; and the small rural towns of Jefferson and Percy, Mississippi, the authors highlight the day-to-day struggle of families living well below the poverty line. Edin and Shaefer spent months and even years following 18 families to learn how they survived on a combination of occasional government assistance and a constant search for work. Among the strategies of the eight featured families are living in shelters and doubling up with other family members. Beyond the statistics, this a close-up, heartbreaking look at rising poverty and income inequality in the U.S.