* The American Way of Poverty by Sasha Abramsky


It would be interesting for a book that describes poverty in America to give some statistics about the poor: how old they are, what education they have, whether they were born in poverty, how people born in poverty may have climbed out of it. We don’t get many statistics in  The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives, mostly personal stories, affecting, but that leave the reader straining for a higher-level understanding of the problem.

And it would be interesting for a book that prescribes remedies to the problem of poverty to give comprehensive recommendations that consider multiple aspects of the issue and rely on quantitative evaluations of past efforts. Not so much here. For instance, the author dismisses any improvements to K-12 education out of hand, stating that children who are hungry or homeless cannot possibly benefit from improvements in schools. That may be, but are all poor children literally homeless? And would not a strong school system allow at least some to progress to non-poor lives? And how can the author, at the same time, vaunt the benefit of a $5,000 award given to each child at birth to cover university tuition?  Surely a sensible homeless parent would take that money and make a deposit on a place to live? I certainly would. It seems that the author’s main solution to poverty is to tax more and give more money to the poor. It would certainly alleviate immediate problems, but that’s not exactly a recipe for changing the system that creates entrenched inequality for future generations, is it?

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