Why is there so much poverty in the richest nation in the world? That’s the question acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond sets out to answer with Poverty, by America. The topic is a familiar one for the author, whose 2016 book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, examined the role poverty plays in America’s housing crisis. Here, Desmond expands his purview and discovers that wealthy and middle class Americans are complicit, both intentionally and unintentionally, in a broken system that exploits the poor. Desmond argues that there must be a radical overhaul of U.S. policies on poverty, which are simply not working. “No state had a child poverty rate higher than Mississippi’s, at roughly 28%,” he writes, “which is also the child poverty rate of Costa Rica.” What Desmond’s book so deftly shows is that poverty is not a personal failure. It’s the result of a society willing to turn a blind eye to its own inequities. —Shannon Carlin

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