Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evictions,  driver of poverty in the American city.

It is the rare writer who can capture a social ill with a clear-eyed, non-judgmental tone and still let the messiness of real people show.  Matthew Desmond, with his award winning book EVICTED, succeeds brilliantly.  Determined not to show a simplistic view of poverty, he does an ethnographic study of one aspect of it, evictions.   The author follows six tenants and two landlords in Milwaukee in 2008 and 2009.  He finds that, far from being just a result of poverty, evictions are a primary driver of it.  Evictions are brutal; they destabilize neighborhoods and destabilize people.

His studies show that there is a rapidly increasing shortage of affordable housing.   Many people spend from 70-90% of their income for rent.  That doesn’t leave much for utilities, food, healthcare, and the other necessities of life.   Many landlords won’t rent to people with children.    In many areas if 911 is called more than 3 times a month, the tenant is considered a nuisance, and has to leave.  The same is true with asking for repairs.  In fact, in the trailer park Desmond writes about, most tenants supposedly own their trailers, so the landlord is not responsible for their condition.

This all sounds dour, but during the two years that he was living in a trailer and in a rooming house among the people he was following, he was continually seeing courage, generosity, humor, and love in the face of adversity.   An informative and important book.   Review by Ann Marie Rahfeldt



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