Poverty and Profit in the American City

Paperback - 2016
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"Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers ... [In this book], Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality--and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship"--Dust jacket flap.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780553447439
Characteristics: x, 418 pages ; 25 cm


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Nonfiction winner

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General Nonfiction Finalist

This landmark investigation of poverty in modern America is undoubtedly one of the most important books to be published so far this year, or even this decade. Sociologist Desmond, a MacArthur genius grant recipient and codirector of the Justice and Poverty Project, lived among the poorest renters... Read More »

2017 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

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Jan 17, 2020

I found "Evicted- Poverty and Profit in the American City" a compelling read. I come from a single parent background and once we moved out of my maternal grandparents's house, we lived in apartments. However, I am from a smaller city in Ohio than some of the places that Matthew Desmond chose to focus on.

In "Evicted," Desmond puts a face on those stuck in the cycle of poverty. The reader comes away from Desmond's work, hopefully with a better understanding of the challenges, pitfalls, and the harsh reality of what life can really be like. Like anything else in our society, you have good landlords and those that should be forced to live in their own rental properties under the same conditions they impose upon their tenants. Just as there are good and bad landlords, the same can be said of tenants. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to make the system any better.

Just like life, there is no easy fix. It just takes the awareness, the compassion, and people willing to make a difference. And of course, there is the reality that there is no perfect solution. But Desmond's work is enlightening. Probably anyone who does not either struggle financially themselves or work with or love someone who does, will not have any idea of the challenges involved in finding a decent place to live that is affordable, a reputable landlord, and living in the black. For some families, that is not even a consideration merely because they are focused on day to day survival.

Cheers to Matthew Desmond and his research and his humanity in showing how the system is broken, how people suffer, and how others benefit financially from their suffering.

Oct 24, 2019

Great book. Sad subject matter that is excellently researched and written about. A must read on a problem that is only growing in America.

Aug 13, 2019

Matthew Desmond's "Evicted" is, honest to God, probably my new favorite book. It somehow manages to be emotionally gripping (definitely cried a few times), unflinchingly factual, and cautiously hopeful all at the same time. It's so, so worth the read, and sparks a really needed conversation about housing as a human right in the United States.


I was surprised when I read Matthew Desmond’s nonfiction novel, Evicted. Desmond, a sociologist, followed eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as they struggled with poverty and eviction. I really enjoyed the way in which Desmond discussed the cycle of eviction. He explored all sides, working hard not to paint a particular party as the culprits of poverty. It was hard to read about the lifestyle that real people suffer through. I think it was really eye-opening to the ways in which poverty can occur. It is not necessarily self-inflicted and is a problem that is nearly inescapable. I think Desmond did a great job at explaining how multi-faceted eviction is. For anyone that wants to better understand a very different culture that exists in the lower class, Evicted is the right book to read. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Hillsboro_ElizabethH Jun 03, 2019

I read this book on the recommendation from the Library Director, and it is wonderful! It really sheds light on the housing crisis in America (who can afford rent these days, anyway?), and gives a voice to those who cannot afford it.

Since housing is a basic human right, how can we do this to those who need it the most, and how can they live in the deplorable situations they're forced to live in?

Apr 21, 2019

🏘️📚🌧 Housing is a basic human need. It irrevocably shapes our lives and our destinies. It also can be a lucrative and, at times, cruel and devastating business. This landmark nonfiction work tells eight stories of families who were swept up in the process of eviction. Along the way, the book sheds new light on the myriad social currents, large and small, that have brought American society to the brink of an alarming housing crisis. The people whose stories are told within— tenants and landlords alike— are expertly brought to life though the author’s masterfully descriptive and empathetic writing. I was completely engrossed in this astonishing book. The stories it tells seem so familiar yet they reveal something new about who we are as a society; about power, privilege, and the meaning of home. 📖

IndyPL_LoriO Mar 27, 2019

This heartbreaking and hard to put down book is an eye-opening look into the affordable housing crisis affecting so many lives today. I particularly enjoyed the author’s ability to tell the stories of his subjects without making himself a character. He acknowledges that there is no simple solution to the lack of affordable housing, but does offer an afterward with some solutions, including expanding the voucher system. Highly recommended.

Feb 23, 2019

I found this book both enlightening and frustrating. Blending respectable authorial skills with awesome first-hand observation data, Desmond exposes the raw and painful lives of Milwaukee residents who can barely afford their rent. These people need help but don’t get it from family, friends, or social services. Every failure sets them up for the next one. The detailed analysis moved me like a well-developed novel does. So, I was more than a little frustrated by the conclusion he draws from it: that a universal voucher system is the cure-all. That money would be better spent reforming the system, making it possible for social workers to coach renters on their lifestyle/habits and getting better rules for the landlords to adopt on pain of prosecution.

Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2017

elijahschenk Dec 20, 2018

The hardest part about reading Evicted was coming to the realization that, more often than not, both sides, tenants and landlords, are only doing what is best for themselves financially, socially, or emotionally. In each of the followed characters’ story arcs, there is solid logic behind most of their actions, even if the action (i.e. an eviction of a family with children) seems so heartless with all the visibility and drama that accompanies it, or seems unwise (i.e. buying up lobster with the whole month’s allotment of food stamps). I think Desmond’s focus on the logic behind every person’s decisions prompts the reader to question the overarching systems keeping things difficult and unequal for people seeking safe, affordable housing. I like how he frames a safe place to live as a right rather than a privilege or something to be earned. The overarching problems hurting families and communities include racism, lack of built housing in many locations, generational cycles of poverty, and our government’s decision not to offer universal housing vouchers to all who would qualify for them. Evicted makes it clear that these sorts of issues are the ones we need to tackle in America, before blaming individual landlords for just thinking about their bottom line, or blaming tenants for an apparent lack of personal responsibility. I appreciate how Desmond offers tangible solutions in his epilogue, instead of leaving off in a totally depressing way; I always like when books are able to do that.

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Aug 05, 2019

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Apr 20, 2017

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.

Apr 20, 2017

There are two freedoms at odds with each other: the freedom to profit from rents and the freedom to live in a safe and affordable home.


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Apr 20, 2017

Between 2007 and 2009, the American housing market was shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis, in which banks foreclosed on millions of homeowners who could not keep up with their rapidly inflating mortgage payments. But another group of people is deeply affected by the trauma of displacement on a more regular basis: the renting poor. Many of these families are spending between fifty and seventy percent of their monthly income on housing, and even a small crisis can easily cause them to fall behind on the rent, making them subject to eviction. Sociologist Matthew Desmond takes the reader into two of Milwaukee’s poorest neighbourhoods, one predominantly white, the other mostly black, and spends eighteen months examining what happens when landlords evict those who have fallen behind on the rent.


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