Poverty, by America Hardcover by Matthew Desmond

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Poverty, by America Hardcover by Matthew Desmond

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Product Details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown (March 21 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593239911
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9780593239919
  • Item weight ‏ : ‎ 404 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.48 x 2.54 x 21.59 cm

1. What was your experience reading Poverty, by America? What three words describe that experience, and why?
2. Desmond defines poverty as “a tight knot of social problems,” breaking with conventional definitions that focusonly on low incomes. What are the implications of this view? How would you define poverty?
3. “We’ve been trained to see the poor as idle and unmotivated since the earliest days of capitalism,” says Desmond.He also writes that “these old tropes and stereotypes are dying.” When have you experienced these tropes andstereotypes? Do you think their power is in fact waning?
4. “To understand the causes of poverty, we must look beyond the poor,” notes Desmond from the outset, “whichmakes this a book about poverty that is not just about the poor. Instead, it’s a book about how the other half lives,about how some lives are made small so that others may grow.” How does this focus deepen the author’s argumentsand proposed solutions?
5. Reflect on the statement: “some lives are made small so that others may grow.” What does that mean to you, andhow does it relate to poverty in America?
6. What did you learn from Poverty, by America that surprised you?
7. In 1961, James Baldwin remarked how “extremely expensive it is to be poor.” What might that mean in 2023?
8. “America’s poverty is not for lack of resources. We lack something else.” What do we, as a country, and as a citizenry,lack in this context?
9. Poverty in America is often invisible, but it can also be very public. When you see a tent encampment, or homelesspeople sleeping on the sidewalk, what goes through your mind? What questions do you ask yourself?
10. Through his research, Desmond discovered that billions of dollars set aside for assistance to the poor remainsunclaimed. Why do you think this is?
11. Race and racism are pressing issues in America’s poverty crisis. Desmond writes: “Anti-Black racism hardensAmericans’ antagonism toward social benefits.” Do you see this antagonism in your family, in your social circle,in your community? How might you address it?
12. Desmond writes: “Those who benefit most from government largesse—generally white families with accountants—harbor the strongest anti-government views.” Explain this disconnect.
13. “As people accumulate more money,” Desmond writes, “they become less dependent on public goods and, in turn,less interested in supporting them.” What does this mean for public schools and public transportation? How doesthis translate toward feelings for government workers? What are the consequences of advancing privatization?
14. Discuss the disconnect between our rising incomes and the deterioration of public investment. What does ittruly mean to expand opportunity?
15. Desmond found that “every year, the richest American families receive almost 40 percent more in governmentsubsidies than the poorest American families.” Did this fact surprise you? Can you think of ways that you oryour family benefit from government assistance that you’ve never thought of as “welfare”? Do you thinkdifferently about it now?
16. Regarding public housing, Desmond writes: “Two things are true. First, most Americans want the country tobuild more public housing for low-income families. Second, most Americans do not want that public housing(or any sort of multi-family housing) in their neighborhood.” How do you think you and your neighborswould respond if your town considered building an affordable housing development in your community?Have you witnessed NIMBYism in your neighborhood or your town? What are ways we can counter theNIMBY position?
17. “The I.R.S. now estimates that the United States loses over $1 trillion a year in unpaid taxes,” Desmond writes,“most of it owing to multinational corporations and wealthy families.” As part of the recently passed InflationReduction Act, Congress has appropriated $80 billion to go after tax cheats and evaders. Do you support theseefforts? Why do you think our country has such a high tolerance for tax avoidance?
18. Desmond urges us all to become poverty abolitionists. How does he suggest we do that? Which of these effortsdo you think will make the biggest difference in reducing, if not abolishing, poverty?
19. “Poverty abolitionism is a personal and political project,” Desmond writes. What are some ways you haveconsidering making it a “personal project”? What sort of choices are you reimagining? How might you conducta “poverty audit” in your own family, school, workplace, or community?

About Author

Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and the founding director of Princeton’s Eviction Lab. His last book, Evicted, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, among others. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Desmond is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Author Residence: Princeton, NJ

Author Hometown: Arizona

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