In his landmark book, Poverty, By America, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem—and also helps us imagine solutions.
In his follow up to Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Desmond investigates why the United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?
Q&A with Daniel Zavala.
In clear and compelling prose, Desmond draws on on history, research, and original reporting to conclude that poverty persists in this nation because the rest of us benefit from it. Those of us who are financially secure knowingly and unknowingly exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. Prioritizing the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, our welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair.
Praised by Esquire as “another paradigm-shifting inquiry into America’s dark heart,” Poverty, by America introduces Desmond’s startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty: he calls on us to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.
Matthew Desmond is the author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology and the founder and principal investigator of the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In 2018, The Eviction Lab published the first-ever national dataset of evictions in America, collecting millions of data points going back to 2000, and it has gone on to serve as a resource hub for the millions of American renters who faced increased housing insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he is also the author of the award-winning book On The Fireline, the coauthor of two books on race, and the editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. He has written essays on educational inequality, dangerous work, political ideology, race and social theory, and the inner-city housing market. His work has been supported by the Gates, Horowitz, Ford, JBP, MacArthur, and National Science, Russell Sage, and W.T. Grant Foundations, as well as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. He is a Contributing Writer for The New York Times Magazine, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Chicago Tribune.
Daniel Zavala is executive director of Building Changes, a Seattle-based nonprofit that works to advance equitable responses to homelessness in Washington State. He is driven by the belief that we as a community must come together to create a more humane and just homelessness response. Shaped by his parents’ roots in education, public health, and social justice, Zavala started his career as a bilingual special education teacher before pursuing a law degree. Over the last 15 years, he has forged a path to policy work focused on education, homelessness, and poverty. Zavala holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in Psychology from Stanford University, and a JD from the University of Washington.