Living on Almost Nothing in America
Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Winner of the Sidney Hillman Book Award
We have made great steps toward eliminating poverty around the world – extreme poverty has declined significantly and seems on track to continue to do so in the next decades. Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank estimates that extreme poverty can be eliminated in 17 years. This is clearly cause for celebration.
However, this good news can make us oblivious to the fact that there are, in the United States, a significant and growing number of families who live on less than $2.00 per person, per day. That figure, the World Bank measure of poverty, is hard to imagine in this country – most of us spend more than that before we get to work or school in the morning.
In $2 A Day, Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin, whose work defining extreme poverty in this country has received widespread attention, call attention to a trend that has had little traction in the aftermath of welfare reform. How does the social safety net fail these citizens? What are the implications of the tradeoffs they must make?
As Michael Harrington set out to do forty years ago in his landmark book, The Other America, Shaefer and Edin alert us to the fact that there are, in this wealthiest of nations, people living in unimaginable poverty. Their book is a call to consider what it means when more than a million families are living on virtually nothing, and what our responsibility is to make a path to prosperity for these Americans.