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Preview — Off the Books by Sudhir Venkatesh
Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
Listen to a short interview with Sudhir Venkatesh
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane
In this revelatory book, Sudhir Venkatesh takes us into Maquis Park, a poor black neighborhood on Chicago's Southside, to explore the desperate, dangerous, and remarkable ways in which a community survives. We find there an entire world of unregulated, unreported, and untax...more
And it's an incredibly important study. Most scholarly output on the urban poor draws either from statistical estimates of activity or on political polemics disguised as original research. This is ...more
Unfortunately, Venkatesh's writing style is a bit pompous at times, and he throws in scholarly terminology when it's not really n ...more
On the good side, it is peppered throughout with very specific examples and excerpts of interviews and conve ...more
The author tells interesting stories about how welfare mothers "manage the household".
Getting a few dollars here, there, and anywhere to pay the bills.
Every adult who lives in the home is expected to contribute,
either money, a car, services, something.
Even grandparents have explicit mandatory contributions.
One woman kicked her grandfather out of the home six times for up to a month because he was not putting in his share.
The author r ...more
Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor is authored by an economist and colleague of the better known Levitt, and explores similar "real-world" economics that the public is now familiar with. The author entered Chicago's tough area and, after gaining the trust of the locals, began to observe the interrelated economic a ...more
What was particularly interesting was that the book covered events from the late nineties up until 2004, so a lot of what was discussed is fairly recent history.
Venkatesh has a tendency to hammer a point h ...more
I will admit this is a rule set more by recent precedent than by any codified regulation as such.
Off the Books is not a book that anyone needs to finish without utterly compelling reasons such as survival, signi ...more
just express my opinion on the book.
It is sad but all too true that the poor seldom speak for
themselves. And even though they may live a few blocks away, it
requires a prolonged ethnographic study like Venkatesh's to get
the picture of their daily lives and economic relations.
And the picture he paints is indeed fascinating. Sterile academic
words like "gang activity" or "narcotics" that Venkatesh uses contrast
with the stark realit ...more
I chose this because the Freakonomics people recommended it (although I have yet to read Freakonom ...more
On one hand, it is a good look at the players in the underground economy of the 21st century. He explores the various means of licit and illicit economic behavior and answers the "why" on the motivations of the players.
On the other hand, the author ...more
There's no recipe for how to solve anything, it's just plain history and direct observations of the people and their interactions. The insight the book provides is useful for initial understanding of the culture of these gettos ...more
I would still recommend this book to people who are ...more
The limite ...more
The only fault is that the writing is pretty academic - dense and repetitive - reads like perhaps it was written for Venkatesh's dissertatio ...more
But Off the Books was not without its merits. Venkatesh lays out the truth of life in this extremely impoverished neighborhood just as he sees it, no censoring. In the end, he connects all the dots and manages to make me see why the current/traditional methods of com ...more
Extremely interesting and useful information for understanding the highly complex economic lives of people living in poverty in the inner city, applicable in a wide variety of contexts. (for example, how $150 sneakers end up on the feet of folks barely making do on food stamps) I wish it had been written better; the author seems to assume we will read it out of order or skim it, so he repeats the same incidents and situations and interviews ad nauseam. A more consistent narrati ...more
A great, immensely important book, but mainly ...more
His most recent book is Gang Leader for a Day (Penguin Press). Gang Leader received a Best Book award from The Economist, and is currently being translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, German, Italian, Polish, French and Portuguese. His previous wor ...more