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Poverty and Profit in the American City

Book - 2016
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"[The author] takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the 20 dollars a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, "Love don't pay the bills." She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality-- and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible"
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780553447439
Call Number: 339.4609 D465e
Characteristics: x, 418 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

A Harvard sociologist examines the challenge of eviction as a formidable cause of poverty in America, revealing how millions of people are wrongly forced from their homes and reduced to cycles of extreme disadvantage that are reinforced by dysfunctional legal systems.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem.

From the critics

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May 01, 2021

What an amazing book. Well rounded ethnography into the lifecycle of poverty. Enjoyed this way more than I thought I would - a personalized account for the many ways poverty effects every aspect of American life, and the dependency between the impoverished and the profiteers

Jan 23, 2021

Eye opening account of renting while poor. It has been awhile since I have lived in a rental, I have never tried to do it on welfare, with kids, having been evicted because husband didn't pay rent before beating me up and damaging property and taking off- and with no family to help me out. This book not only shows white privilege but middle class privilege, highly recommend.

ArapahoeJennieB Jan 16, 2021

A devastating but necessary exploration and examination of housing and the cycle of poverty that keeps our poorest citizens continually poor and oftentimes unhoused. It also examines the intersections of poverty, eviction and race. A very necessary and increasingly relevant read.

Nov 09, 2020

Extremely eye opening. Devastating read. It is a testament to the ravages of untethered capitalism. I also recommend "Incarceration Nation". Another eye opener.

Oct 28, 2020

As compelling and haunting as it is heartbreaking, this one will stick with you for a little while

Oct 24, 2019

Great book. Sad subject matter that is excellently researched and written about. A must read on a problem that is only growing in America.

Aug 13, 2019

Matthew Desmond's "Evicted" is, honest to God, probably my new favorite book. It somehow manages to be emotionally gripping (definitely cried a few times), unflinchingly factual, and cautiously hopeful all at the same time. It's so, so worth the read, and sparks a really needed conversation about housing as a human right in the United States.


I was surprised when I read Matthew Desmond’s nonfiction novel, Evicted. Desmond, a sociologist, followed eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as they struggled with poverty and eviction. I really enjoyed the way in which Desmond discussed the cycle of eviction. He explored all sides, working hard not to paint a particular party as the culprits of poverty. It was hard to read about the lifestyle that real people suffer through. I think it was really eye-opening to the ways in which poverty can occur. It is not necessarily self-inflicted and is a problem that is nearly inescapable. I think Desmond did a great job at explaining how multi-faceted eviction is. For anyone that wants to better understand a very different culture that exists in the lower class, Evicted is the right book to read. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Hillsboro_ElizabethH Jun 03, 2019

I read this book on the recommendation from the Library Director, and it is wonderful! It really sheds light on the housing crisis in America (who can afford rent these days, anyway?), and gives a voice to those who cannot afford it.

Since housing is a basic human right, how can we do this to those who need it the most, and how can they live in the deplorable situations they're forced to live in?

Apr 21, 2019

🏘️📚🌧 Housing is a basic human need. It irrevocably shapes our lives and our destinies. It also can be a lucrative and, at times, cruel and devastating business. This landmark nonfiction work tells eight stories of families who were swept up in the process of eviction. Along the way, the book sheds new light on the myriad social currents, large and small, that have brought American society to the brink of an alarming housing crisis. The people whose stories are told within— tenants and landlords alike— are expertly brought to life though the author’s masterfully descriptive and empathetic writing. I was completely engrossed in this astonishing book. The stories it tells seem so familiar yet they reveal something new about who we are as a society; about power, privilege, and the meaning of home. 📖

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Aug 05, 2019

wiildsage thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

lvccld_judi Jul 24, 2018

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Apr 20, 2017

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.

Apr 20, 2017

There are two freedoms at odds with each other: the freedom to profit from rents and the freedom to live in a safe and affordable home.


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Apr 20, 2017

Between 2007 and 2009, the American housing market was shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis, in which banks foreclosed on millions of homeowners who could not keep up with their rapidly inflating mortgage payments. But another group of people is deeply affected by the trauma of displacement on a more regular basis: the renting poor. Many of these families are spending between fifty and seventy percent of their monthly income on housing, and even a small crisis can easily cause them to fall behind on the rent, making them subject to eviction. Sociologist Matthew Desmond takes the reader into two of Milwaukee’s poorest neighbourhoods, one predominantly white, the other mostly black, and spends eighteen months examining what happens when landlords evict those who have fallen behind on the rent.


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