Desmond suggests prescription for America's "addiction to poverty" in new book

March 17, 2023

Though poverty exists throughout the world, Matthew Desmond, Professor of Sociology and director of Princeton’s Eviction Lab, asks why the United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. In his new book Poverty, by America, he illuminates the ways this country’s policies and practices perpetuate inequity and what he sees as an “addiction to poverty” among those with the power to do something about it. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted expands themes from the confines of housing policy into a range of social support programs and policies to try to understand why poverty persists. To approach answers, he draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. 

In a recent and related opinion piece in The New York Times, Desmond asserts:

“Poverty persists in America because many of us benefit from it. We enjoy cheap goods and services and plump returns on our investments, even as they often require a kind of human sacrifice in the form of worker maltreatment. We defend lavish tax breaks that accrue to wealthy Americans, starving antipoverty initiatives. And we build and defend exclusive communities, shutting out the poor and forcing them to live in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage.”

In his book, Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty and asks his readers 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.

On, March 23, Desmond will discuss his book with Northwestern University sociologist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor andwill be introduced by Andrea Elliott, investigative reporter for the New York Times and author of Invisible Child, the 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner in General Nonfiction.