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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  31,204 Ratings  ·  5,028 Reviews
New York Times Bestseller

From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America

In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single m
Hardcover, 418 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Crown
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Heather Yes. It's a detailed picture of individual and systemic failure. The filthy and dangerous conditions are horrifying. The "catch-22" of arrears, fines,…moreYes. It's a detailed picture of individual and systemic failure. The filthy and dangerous conditions are horrifying. The "catch-22" of arrears, fines, penalties, and debts make my head hurt. As with credit card debt and fines for driving misdemeanors, it's expensive to be poor - penalties for late payment and partial payment pile up. The sheer number and variety of damaged, broken, addicted people struggling to survive makes my heart hurt. The predatory behavior of the slumlords makes me angry, even while I sympathize with their desire not to be taken advantage of, cheated and ripped off. The self-destructive behavior of the tenants also makes me angry and baffled, even while I sympathize with their desire to indulge a little short-term comfort or rebellion in their rotten circumstances.
This book exposes the rental market for poor, uneducated, addicted, disabled people as predatory.(less)

Community Reviews

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Jennifer Masterson
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, non-fiction
This just won The Pulitzer! Yay! "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City" is probably the most important book that I have ever read!!! If you are to read one non-fiction book this year it should probably be this book!!! This should be required reading in high school! I learned about poverty and poor renters, the eviction process, and scumbag landlords.

This book is about 8 families in Milwaukee. These are both Caucasian and African American families. The book is broken down into 3 parts
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The brutal truth of poverty in America is far more devastating than any fiction ever could be. In evicted, Matthew Desmond brings rigorous sociological research and ethnography to Milwaukee's inner city. This book is painful and necessary and eye opening. I am ashamed of how little I knew about poverty and eviction. This book is fucking depressing and hopeless and excellent. We have got to do better. Also the segregation! And racist ass Ned who made his biracial stepdaughters say "white power" w ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone in the U.S.
It is no surprise that "Evicted" was the University Wisconsin-Madison's Go Big Red book read for 2016, a book chosen by the chancellor and worked into campus-wide discussions and events. Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it examines the lives of a number of people who deal with eviction and the property owners. To those outside the state, it might be less obvious how state politics have played into the background of many of the people in Evicted but suffice to say, the once-independent State of Wisco ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I recalled that last year that author Roxane Gay was asked what was "the last book that made you furious?" She said: "'Evicted,' by Matthew Desmond. My God, what that book lays bare about American poverty. It is devastating and infuriating and a necessary read." So true. (I continue to think this book says oodles more than Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis about poverty, class, and the American Dream.)

I try to remember to sing this last stanza of Pretty Boy Floyd, the
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Many thanks to my local friend- Cindy - for putting this book in my hands.

“Sherrena and Quentin always planned their vacations so that they were back before the first the month, when their days went long with eviction notices to pass out, new moves to manage, and rents to collect. Because most of their tenants didn’t have bank accounts, collecting rent was a face-to-face affair”.

“When Sheriff John walked into a house and saw mattresses on the floor, grease on the c
Navidad Thelamour
Matthew Desmond’s research-driven prose is a dazzling work of examination and insight. Within these pages, the business and culture of evictions is dissected down to the very dollars and cents that uphold this thriving industry. The judicial system and the role it plays is scrutinized, and the lives of 8 families are put on intimate display for readers to bear witness to. Within the pages of Eviction, Desmond paints a clandestine portrait of the precarious lives of those living at and below the ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, favorites
Whatever our way out of this mess, one thing is certain. This degree of inequality, this withdrawal of opportunity, this cold denial of basic needs, this endorsement of pointless suffering-by no American value is this situation justified. No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become.

I begin this review with what is essentially the end of this book. There is another piece after this that will hav
Wow, this is a powerful look at what it means to be poor in America.

The book follows eight families in the Milwaukee area, all facing eviction problems. Some of the families are white, some are black, some have children. All of them struggled to pay the monthly rent, which seemed ridiculously high for the broken-down places they got.

Families have watched their incomes stagnate, or even fall, while their housing costs have soared. Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend ov
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

This book? This book was . . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Per usual when I read a good hardcover, (1) I failed to watch my children play in their baseball games and instead kept my tunnel vision pointed directly at the book and (2) the flagging of the pages happened which made all of the parents around me give me the “that b*&^% be cray” look . . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Buuuuuuuuuuuut as also per usual, I’m not really going to quote anything that I post-it noted. After read
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
This is definitely not Good Times

Palm Springs commercial photography

I didn't realize until I read the afterward that the author of this book put himself right into the middle of the people he portrays lives. He gave them rides to look for houses, he even loaned them small amounts of money at times. He admits that he misses living in the trailer park among them.

This book. I hope more people get it and read it. I've been on a "smart book" kick lately and I've starred them all pretty highly but this one is just amazing. Desmond kn
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
A high 4 stars.

Much has been written about Evicted. There’s not much I can add other than to say everyone should read this book. And not just for the stories of the people the author follows, but for everything at the end about the importance of having an affordable home and the author’s experience of doing the research for the book. It’s a heartbreaking and important book. It brings to life what it means for families and individuals to live in precarious housing situations. He humanize his subj
This book won a number of awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, for uncovering a housing problem in America that appears to disproportionately affect low-income renters and keep them in a cycle of perpetual uncertainty: eviction. A beautifully written and involving set of individual family case studies, this sociological work casts light on a problem that has developed over time and has not been well understood to date.

Desmond is able to involve his readers in the lives of the people he describes
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017
What. A. Goat. Rodeo.

Super interesting and frustrating and appalling and unbelievable and believable and terrifying and infuriating and heartbreaking and......well, you get the idea.

The first part of this Pulitzer Prize-winning book brings together a handful of characters (landlords and tenants) in a poor Milwaukee neighborhood and tells their stories - what brought them to where they are, what keeps them stuck in poverty, what options (if any) they have. Desmond does a really good job of choos
No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become.

Evicted is a study of poverty and the problems of rent payments in the city of Milwaukee. As rents increase where property values stagnate or decline, the poorest have to spend 70-90% of their income on housing. With such a small margin of income, a single crisis - illness, car crash, emergency repairs - can send the residents into eviction. Once that h
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, politics, memoir
In Evicted, Matthew Desmond shares the experiences of eight families as they try to make ends meet in the most run-down neighborhoods of Milwaukee. And this would be interesting enough, but, amazingly, Desmond ALSO shares the experiences of two landlords who manage some of the properties where these families live. All together, it makes for some engaging, eye-opening, big-picture reading.

You’d think that a 400-page tome about such a weighty and depressing topic would be a tedious and slightly im
Richard Derus
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Review: 5* of five

I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. Why? Because I'm a radical who wants to re-rig the system and change the course of the Ship of State 180 degrees.

“Every condition exists,” Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “simply because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” Exploitation. Now, there’s a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate.--and there it is, simply and baldly put: The poor are exp
Clif Hostetler
This book describes the misery of living at the ragged edge of homelessness. The first 80 percent of the book follows in detail the experiences of eight low-income families (including both black and white) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The final part of the book is a long Epilogue that provides a concluding summary and a description of how the author collected his information and data by living among the subjects he writes about.

The reading experience of exposure to the stories in this book is distu
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
This book ought to be required reading for anyone who wants to hold elected office in this country, no matter what level you’re at. It’s immersive sociological reporting at its finest—at the height of the recession, Matthew Desmond moved into some of the poorest sections of Milwaukee and immersed himself in the lives of the people who had little choice but to live there. He tells the stories of the tenants and the landlords in their own voices, with such clarity and precision that it’s almost ea ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer, read2017
This author is coming to my institution on Wednesday so I sped through the reading of this book, making some notes.

I think I'll start by saying how impressed I was by how he did the research, which you don't learn about until the end of the book. He lives in Tobin's trailer park. He lives with Scott. He moves to the north side and acknowledges this weird white buffer he is given. Along the way he develops relationships with people struggling to stay in their housing, with landlords who are parti
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Please start by reading the GR book description here:

The book addresses the need for affordable housing, a crucial problem in America today. By looking at two landlords and eight families, statistics become personal. They gain meaning.

The first third of the book did however give me trouble. The so-called “families” are distended making it hard to get a grip on them. Their stories are not related one by one, but all mixed together which leads to confusion
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A fantastic and difficult book that follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted shows the challenges these white and black families encounter as they fail to pay their rent, get evicted, and experience countless cruelties along the way. The book recognizes these families' humanity by showing their remarkable resilience and kindness as well as their mistakes. Matthew Desmond ends the book by revealing the vast reporting and research he pu
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been wanting to read this book forever since this book talks about the truth with eviction in Milwaukee, Wissconsin- an area that I visit often: just last weekend...

The author, Matthew Desmond, takes us to some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee and shares the stories of eight families. One of the families is Arleen's. She is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Another person story he shares is Scott
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Evicted is a painstakingly researched ethnography of the housing crisis, told through the voices of members of two communities (one black, one white) - a trailer park and project housing in Milwaukee.

I was deeply touched, enlightened, profoundly depressed, and humbled by this work. Although I, as other Americans, are frequently exposed to statistics about poverty, these are but abstractions that only serve to reinforce the distance between the poor and the not (we can just make our donation to
Jennifer Blankfein
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Visit for reviews and recommendations.
Living paycheck to paycheck comes with ongoing pressures and struggles, but in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond introduces us to the poorest of the poor, people lacking basic needs, food, clothing and shelter. The downward spiral is devastating and our system offers little hope for getting ahead. Simply stated, when tenants miss work to take care of their children, their pay is docked, an
Book Riot Community
This book won the Pulitzer, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and I can absolutely see why. Author Matthew Desmond spent months living in a trailer park and then an inner-city rooming house in Milwaukee, getting to know the renters and their landlords and observing firsthand what the housing crisis looks like. By telling these stories, he shows how hard it is for the poor to find and keep decent, affordable housing. This book frequently infuriated me, but it also raised in me a strong ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book by Harvard sociologist
Matthew Desmond , who moved into a low income trailer park in Milwaukee to live among those he would later write about, has won a Pulitzer Prize along with dozens of other awards. It's rare that a non-fiction book reads like a novel but Desmond does a terrific job here of keeping it readable though it's plenty real. The number of people evicted from their homes and jolted into the serious upheaval of losing their possessions and their security is shocking at over
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening and powerful book about shockingly common practice of eviction in American cities.

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond spent months living in several different neighborhoods in Milwaukee's inner-city. This book focuses on a handful of people -- some white, some black, some single parents, some married with kids, some single -- who were all evicted during Desmond's time in the city.

Desmond gives readers an extraordinarily balanced, though bleak, view of the situations. The landlor
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
This is what poor looks like in America and it’s not a pretty picture. There’s no question we have a flawed system, and the cycle continues with no way out for those who are caught up in poverty and substandard living conditions. There are no heroes in this book, neither the tenants or the landlords. There are situations that will break your heart, and situations that will infuriate you. It’s easy to judge the poor but unless we’ve walked in their shoes I think we’d do better to try and underst ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
This recently won the Pulitzer, and it's well deserved. It's been a year since I read this, and it still sticks out in my mind as one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read.

The one lesson I took away from this book above all else was that for everything I thought I knew about poverty in America, I actually knew very little.

The rate of rent is becoming an epidemic, especially in low-income areas, and evictions have added to a cycle of poverty that seems impossible to escape. Having an evict
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
What an amazing book! I was riveted by sociologist Matthew Desmond's experience with poor renters in Milwaukee. Many times, while reading, I wondered how he had been able to collect such personal stories. The answer to that question comes in the last chapter in which he lays out his research methods and the fact that he lived right alongside some of the poorest renters in the city, recording , with their permission, their lives. The result is a book you won't forget. I was reminded of the book I ...more
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Matthew Desmond is an American sociologist and urban ethnographer. He is currently the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Co-Director of the Justice and Poverty Project. The author of several books, including the award-winning book, "On the Fireline," and "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City," Desmond was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" gran ...more
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“Every condition exists,” Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “simply because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” Exploitation. Now, there’s a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate.” 46 likes
“it is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.” 30 likes
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