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The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives
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The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  691 ratings  ·  111 reviews
Selected as A Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review

Fifty years after Michael Harrington published his groundbreaking book The Other America, in which he chronicled the lives of people excluded from the Age of Affluence, poverty in America is back with a vengeance. It is made up of both the long-term chronically poor and new working poor—the tens of mi
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Nation Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.65  · 
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 ·  691 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-read

I don't think liked is the right word, but this is a compelling and heartbreaking and I want to force everyone to read this book, especially anyone who believes that taxes are too high and people using government assistance are lazy. If you don't have time to read the whole book, at least peruse something like this review in the New York Times. But some other points for this review. Abramsky clearly lays out the way these issues are connected and come at the behest and benefit of those in power
Jeff Scott
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
It takes a great catastrophe to bring about great action. In 1929 when the stock market crashed, people lost everything. The Roosevelt Administration responded with programs intended to provide a social safety net. The intent was to get people back to work and protect the most vulnerable; these protections have helped individuals after the Great Depression ended.

However, during the Great Recession, there was no such result. In fact, more social programs were cut and have remained cut, further
Phil Scovis
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
A comprehensive analysis of the causes and history of modern American poverty. Though most of it is a depressing read, it ends on a remarkably optimistic note, insisting that the problem of poverty is not only tractable, but possible to solve finally in the near term.

But don't expect an unbiased analysis, or a politically agreeable solution.

"We will get further in understanding [...] poverty if we consider how entrenched the new plutocracy [...] has become than if we look solely for explanation
Kathryn Bashaar
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I came by this book in the most charming way. I have a friend who is a social justice activist, and she was having a "house cooling" : the opposite of a house-warming. She was in her 70s and her health had begun to decline, and so she made the decision to sell her home of 40 years and move to an apartment. She invited her friends to come to one final party at her house. All we had to do was bring a box for her packing - and take with us one of her "treasures" that wasn't moving to the apartment ...more
In the U.S., we have lost the ability to see poverty and the will to understand why it occurs, which perpetuates and deepens poverty for those who suffer it. Numbers differ according to whether one is measuring the entire population or segments of it, such as children. In 2012, UNICEF found the U.S. second only to Romania in child poverty, at 23 percent. In many areas of the country, the rate is far higher. Life expectancy has fallen and infant mortality has risen. The recent recession has exace ...more
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The basic premise is the scale of poverty in this country is a preventable scandal of our own design and one that endangers us all. The first half of the book does an excellent job of spelling out the consequences of our economic and governmental public policies on continually eroding the economic stability of a large portion of our population. The bottom line question is why do we continually support policies that endanger our present and future economic viability?

Likely because the issue is so
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Abransky focuses on the problem that's so ubiquitous that it's invisible: poverty. Whether it's the folks pushing the shopping carts or those living in cars or the kids who wear the same things to school or the folks who are quietly hiding in their houses, waiting for the lenders to come, "clues" about the phenomenal number of people who are living on the margins are everywhere.

The first part of the book is a portrait of Americans who are impoverished, but Abramsky's point is that this is not a
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Is the war on poverty lost? Are the poor responsible for their own poverty or is that debate besides the point? Are there public policy solutions that would address poverty?

Abramsky takes a decided liberal view of the issue of poverty. For him, it is a societal disaster and human tragedy. Is is a problem that needs active government policy to address. He makes his case in acknowledgement of the current political gridlock and fierce conservative opposition to anything the government might do to s
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
That I would classify this book as demoralizing is not the fault of the author. Abramsky cogently and clearly makes that case for how "[a]s a community,, we strengthen ourselves when we find ways to protect our most vulnerable" (317). The verb "strengthen" is not merely abstract; it is tangible, verifiable, and material. The dispiriting effect of the book lies in the comprehensive portrait of its subject, which documents the depth and breadth of poverty in this country, poverty that has been mad ...more
Nicki Schwenkbeck
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have read numerous books this year on the subjects of poverty and income inequality. As Abramsky stated in this book, the ideas are there the political will is not. That the idea of a financial transactions tax is currently not even being discussed from what I can see in the mainstream media is disheartening. That most Americans actually agree that the wealthier amongst us should be paying their fair share in taxes shows that politicians are not representing the majority but a tiny minority wh ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’m glad I read it. I was impressed by both halves of the book. The first half was his look into the realities, the data, of poverty in America today. The second half of the book are his prescriptions. While I do not cast my lot with his prescriptions - I thought they were very well argued and they made me think about what I think is both realistic and helpful. I am going to New York City next week and I think I’ll write to him and see if he’ll give me a little bit of time to talk. Many of his p ...more
Florence Millo
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The American Way of Poverty by Sasha Abramsky

The first two-thirds of this book is excellent. He discusses in detail the most common causes of poverty--job loss, early childbearing, poor education, living in areas of economic depression, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse--and interviews in-depth people living in abject poverty from these causes. It is written with both wide-eyed clarity and compassion.

Then we come to the last one-third of the book which deals with solutions. There he lo
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I appreciated that the author was able to tell the real stories of poverty in America. For too long I have had to battle stereotypes and biases during discussions on poverty, systems, and policy. I think that poverty, and all that goes with it, is such a frighteningly real subject that people instinctively protect themselves by going into denial mode. This book helps make denial impossible. Here is the reality, and here are a few things we can do about it. A very well balanced and honest depicti ...more
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, gen-nonfic
To anyone who agrees, the author is stating the obvious. To anyone who disagrees, well, they are unlikely to read this book in the first place.
May 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: serious
Read it when you want to complain about taxes. Poverty is unjust and we have to be proactive as citizens and voters. A great introduction to a huge problem. Compelling and balanced.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: review-books
Jesus Christ, now I have to review this thing.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book out of a need to understand poverty better. It should be required reading for Social Workers and SW students. This book is divided into two sections: firsthand depictions of people in deep poverty situations all across the country, and practical policy suggestions for lifting people out of poverty.

I found the first half of the book to be intriguing. Intriguing in that the ways in which people who have nothing have found ways to subsist. Like the couple "camping" on Hawaii's big
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first half of this book was rough to read. It consisted of stories of people and places dealing with extreme poverty. Some of the cases presented were people who'd grown up in poverty, lived in poverty still, and had never had options to rise out of poverty or to raise their kids out of poverty. Other stories were of people who lost everything either through the housing collapse of 2008, or through massive medical bills and the like. There was so much there that didn't really shock me, but c ...more
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book as it's certainly a topic in which I am interested however I found it difficult to wade through. The book is divided into two parts - the first is basically the stories of those in poverty and the second part focuses on ideas for improvement & potential solutions. I felt like the first part would have been stronger if it had focused more on one or two stories vs lots of very brief anecdotes. I felt like the second part would have been stronger if it had offered ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-store-non
This was a solidly researched book, and it probably deserved another star than what I'm giving.
However, I wasn't a huge fan of the layout of the book. I thought that I would enjoy having the problems and people in the beginning and then having just solutions in the back, however it lost a lot of the emotional aspects, and having all of the solutions crowded together actually made it harder for me to pay attention to individual solutions.

But that is not to say that this isn't an excellent book,
Allison Olson
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was very well written and the personal stories of the poor painted a picture better than all the economic jargon can. My only problem with it is that the solutions are appealing to the liberal side of politics and not at all appealing to the conservative side of politics. I feel like a long term solution will be somewhere in the middle or no one will get on board. I am still searching for a book on how I as an individual can make a difference in the lives of those struggling financially.
Una Rose
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading the first part of this book gave me a clear understanding of the harsh and dehumanizing poverty system in America. The second part added necessary rays of hope. Every American voter and polititian should read this book. It would do America alot of good to discover the real side of poverty no ever sees. I really liked the author's big point: poverty doesn't need to happen. It is also easy to read without alot of academic points, footnotes, etc.
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking personal histories of poverty in America, followed by a couple of long chapters on what can (realistically) be done. I liked the last couple of sections on policy. It shifted the tone of the book from a kind of anthropological study in hopelessness to how American society might tackle the issue head-on and proactively.
Apr 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This book shows that the problem of poverty isn't EASY to fix, but it can be done. The real tragedy will be if we do nothing in response.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Please read this.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Most Americans see the impoverished as lazy, hand-out seekers looking to subsist off federal and state taxpayers. Don't think so, well read what the Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson, said on the subject. (Source:

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," said Carson. "You take somebody who has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you in a little while they'll be right back up there.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great argument that poverty in the richest nation on earth is a societal failing as opposed to an individual moral failing. Yes, people make horrible decisions - this book doesn't downplay the importance of personal responsibility - but with wages stagnant and the costs of housing, health care, and higher education skyrocketing, it's easier than ever for a sick relative, a broken down car, or even a bounced check to send someone into poverty, much less a global economic recession.

He details ho
Rachel B
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poverty
I liked how many real-life stories were included in the first half of this book. The second half focuses on his proposed solutions to poverty, which mostly consists of additional taxes, particularly on the wealthy.

His position did skew a bit liberal and political, and he made various comments that insinuated Democrats have always been kind and generous to the poor, while Republicans have always been selfish and stingy. This obvious bias left a bad taste in my mouth.

While I didn't agree with ever
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don't disagree with his basic premise, but oh, man, are his proposed solutions so pie-in-the-sky as to be embarrassing. It will be a cold day in hell before Congress agrees to cut defense spending or assess higher taxes on themselves and their wealthy donors. People are only as generous as self-interest impels them to be, and no matter how hard or long you explain to people about the universal, long-term benefits of short-term sacrifice, they'll continue to scream about the rank injustice of t ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
nonfiction (sociology/politics). Extreme leftists would dismiss this as biased, but this wasn't written for them. It definitely provides more perspective on the consequences of various policies and the ways in which the poor and even the until-recently-middle-class have been affected by the economy and ill luck. The first half recounts dozens if not hundreds of stories of personal hardships; the second half offers some solutions for reshifting priorities and political funding, and fixing unhelpf ...more
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Sasha Abramsky studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University. He is now a freelance journalist and senior fellow at Demos who reports on political personalities and cultural trends.

His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications.

He live
“As long as people think poverty is the problem,” Ganz explained, “they’re missing the whole point. Poverty is evidence of a problem; it’s not the source of the problem. They’re all based on the weakening of collective institutions—the decline of labor, of common interests. The core question is not about poverty, it’s really about democracy. The galloping poverty in the United States is evidence of a retreat from democratic beliefs and practices.” 3 likes
“Poverty is, in other words, as diverse as the United States itself. What the poor have in common, however, is an increasingly precarious existence in a country seemingly unable—or at least unwilling—to come to grips with their collective despair.” 2 likes
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