See what others are saying about $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer.
"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
"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
The U.N. finds growing numbers of Americans are living in the most impoverished circumstances. How did we get here?
“Finish all your food,” my mother used to tell me. “There’s a child in Africa who would love to have that food on your plate.” It was an effective disciplinary approach, especially because my family is from Africa. But my experience is not unique. Images of poverty in the “Third World” — then and now — permeate American society, reassuring us about our country’s ostensible democratic promise and potential for upward mobility. What economists call “extreme poverty,” most Americans think, is a distant problem, a hallmark of the less developed world.
But could extreme poverty also be a feature of what is (although perhaps not for long) one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world? Quite possibly. To answer the question, the United Nations launched an investigation of extreme poverty in the United States.
Credit can be a lifeline during emergencies and a bridge to education and homeownership. But debt—which can stem from credit or unpaid bills—often burdens families and communities and exacerbates wealth inequality. This map shows the geography of debt in America at the national, state, and county levels. How does your community compare?
SKOOTER MCCOY WAS 20 years old when his wife, Michelle, gave birth to their first child, a son named Spencer. It was 1996, and McCoy was living in the tiny town of Cherokee, North Carolina, attending Western Carolina University on a football scholarship. He was the first member of his family to go to college.
McCoy’s father had ruined his body as a miner, digging tunnels underneath lakes and riverbeds, and his son had developed a faith that college would lead him in a better direction. So McCoy was determined to stay in school when Spencer came along. Between fatherhood, football practice, and classes, though, he couldn’t squeeze in much part-time work. Michelle had taken an entry-level job as a teacher’s aide at a local childcare center right out of high school, but her salary wasn’t enough to support the three of them.
Then the casino money came.
Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies, according to a study published Thursday by two prominent economists.
Anne Case and Angus Deaton garnered national headlines in 2015 when they reported that the death rate of midlife non-Hispanic white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in contrast with the death rates of blacks, Hispanics and Europeans. Their new study extends the data by two years and shows that whatever is driving the mortality spike is not easing up.
The two Princeton professors say the trend affects whites of both sexes and is happening nearly everywhere in the country. Education level is significant: People with a college degree report better health and happiness than those with only some college, who in turn are doing much better than those who never went.
This is a transaction for money. There are 500 plasma centers in the U.S. And almost all are foreign owned. They extract plasma from this blood to make drugs that help treat leukemia, and for transplant patients. And these companies have turned the United States into what has been called the OPEC of plasma, American donors providing 94% of the paid plasma used around the world. They are a kind of branded army, not of addicts, but people, including full-time workers who are just unable to make ends meet. I donate specifically for the money because I work a minimum wage job. As a cashier and a stocker. Basically it's for bills, make ends meet.
Is It Better to Be Poor in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta?
The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton discusses extreme poverty, opioid addiction, Trump voters, robots, and rent-seeking.
Angus Deaton studies the grand questions not just of economics but of life. What makes people happy? How should we measure well-being? Should countries give foreign aid? What can and should experiments do? Is inequality increasing or decreasing? Is the world getting better or worse?
Better, he believes, truly better. But not everywhere or for everyone. This week, in a speech at a conference held by the National Association for Business Economics, Deaton, the Nobel laureate and emeritus Princeton economist, pointed out that inequality among countries is decreasing, while inequality within countries is increasing. China and India are making dramatic economic improvements, while parts of sub-Saharan Africa are seeing much more modest gains. In developed countries, the rich have gotten much richer while the middle class has shriveled. A study he coauthored with the famed Princeton economist Anne Case highlights one particularly dire outcome: Mortality is actually increasing for middle-aged white Americans, due in no small part to overdoses and suicides—so-called “deaths of despair.” (Case also happens to be Deaton’s wife. More on that later.)
How can it be that the United States spends so much money fighting poverty and still suffers one of the highest child poverty rates among advanced nations?
One in five American children is poor by the count of LIS, a data archive tracking well-being and deprivation around the world. By international standards that set the poverty line at one-half the income of families on the middle rung of the income ladder, the United States tolerated more child poverty in 2012 than 30 of the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of advanced industrialized nations.
The percentage of children who are poor is more than three times as high in the United States as it is in Norway or the Netherlands. America has a larger proportion of poor children than Russia.
So what’s going on? We may spend a lot of money, but we don’t spend it well. It turns out that the most generous federal programs for families with children barely help the nation’s unluckiest children. Rather, they generally push money to their counterparts higher up the ladder of well-being.
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton unveiled what is arguably among the most important policies she’s announced during her entire presidential campaign. It is an ambitious but politically attainable plan that will lift huge numbers of families with children out of poverty. It is targeted exclusively at the poor, and the extreme poor in particular, with no money spent on the middle class or rich.
Specifically, Clinton is calling for a change in the refundability threshold of the child tax credit. That sounds like a technical change, but it has tremendous ramifications. Currently, the poorest American families can’t claim the credit, which is a mainstay of the tax returns of most middle-class families. That’s because households that make less than $3,000 a year — the truly, desperately poor — are excluded entirely, and households making under $9,666.67 can’t get the full credit.
Clinton would change the law so that families start getting the credit with the first dollar they earn. That would effectively increase the tax refunds of the poorest families with children. In addition, Clinton would double the credit for children 4 and under, something that helps both poor and middle-class families with young kids, and she’d make the credit phase in much faster for families with kids in that age range.
An analysis by Chuck Marr and Chloe Cho of the Center on Budget and Policy Prioritiesestimates that Clinton's plan will lift 1.5 million people above the poverty line, and bring another 9.4 million closer to the poverty line. It would increase the incomes of 5.2 million people living in deep poverty.
MICHIGAN REDIRECTS ABOUT $100 MILLION ANNUALLY IN FEDERAL WELFARE MONEY TO COLLEGE AID.
Albion College is one of the most expensive private schools in Michigan and many of its students come from families of means.
On the surface, it would appear the liberal arts students at Albion would have little in common with those living in the poor neighborhood that surrounds the school, where a third of residents live in poverty.
Yet they do, and most students are likely unaware of this stunning fact: A greater percentage of Albion students are receiving federal welfare money than those in the neighborhood surrounding the campus.
At Albion, 63% of in-state students receive a Michigan Competitive Scholarship or a Michigan Tuition Grant, college aid the students themselves might be surprised to learn is funded almost entirely with federal anti-poverty money. This at a college in which the median family income of students receiving financial aid is nearly $76,000.
That rate is also more than double the percentage of Albion students who were awarded a Pell Grant in the 2013-14 school year, Those grants go to U.S. college students coming from the poorest of family backgrounds.
The use of federal welfare money to help more financially comfortable Michigan students attend pricey private schools is hardly confined to Albion.
Two-thirds of Michigan students at Calvin College benefit from welfare funds, even though the median family income of Calvin students getting financial aid is $85,000. Similar numbers emerge at Alma, Kettering, Hope, Olivet and other expensive schools.
In all, Michigan spends about $100 million annually in welfare money from Washington on college aid, including millions that benefit families earning more than $100,000. This in a state in which only 18 of every 100 families living in poverty is receiving cash assistance.
It’s almost bedtime. John Baird Jr., 47, smokes on the hood of his 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan, his plaid sleeping bag neatly tucked in the trunk.
Kathleen McDermott, 81, slouches in the driver’s seat of her 2002 Ford Focus station wagon. Two angel statuettes stare from her dashboard into clothes and clutter behind her.
Scott Downey, 52, works a crossword puzzle on his phone inside a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country van that smells faintly like cats. Clothes hang on hooks in the back, and emergency supplies of ramen noodles and Vienna sausages sit out of plain view.
They are in a Home Depot parking lot, largely invisible among the subdivisions and sprawl of Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, the nation’s second-wealthiest community.
Sleeping in their cars, they are homeless but sort of not, a subset of a population officially classified as “unsheltered” and slowly shrinking in these suburbs of Washington, even as the number of people living in poverty continues to grow.
Each member of the trio spent decades living a more stable existence before family trauma or economic hardship led them to the streets.
Here, they help one another with errands and auto repairs, carpool to work or church, and check in on one another at night.
Just like their neighbors in the subdivisions around them.