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Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty

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Water. Food. Housing. The most basic and crucial needs for survival, yet 40 percent of people in the United States don't have the resources to get them. With key policy changes, we could eradicate poverty in this country within our lifetime—but we need to get started now. Nearly 40 million people in the United States live below the poverty line—about $26,200 for a family of Water. Food. Housing. The most basic and crucial needs for survival, yet 40 percent of people in the United States don't have the resources to get them. With key policy changes, we could eradicate poverty in this country within our lifetime—but we need to get started now. Nearly 40 million people in the United States live below the poverty line—about $26,200 for a family of four. Low-income families and individuals are everywhere, from cities to rural communities. While poverty is commonly seen as a personal failure, or a deficiency of character or knowledge, it's actually the result of bad policy. Public policy has purposefully erected barriers that deny access to basic needs, creating a society where people can easily become trapped—not because we lack the resources to lift them out, but because we are actively choosing not to. Poverty is close to inevitable for low-wage workers and their children, and a large percentage of these people, despite qualifying for it, do not receive government aid. From Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox, Broke in America offers an eye-opening and galvanizing look at life in poverty in this country: how circumstances and public policy conspire to keep people poor, and the concrete steps we can take to end poverty for good. In clear, accessible prose, Goldblum and Shaddox detail the ways the current system is broken and how it's failing so many of us. They also highlight outdated and ineffective policies that are causing or contributing to this unnecessary problem. Every chapter features action items readers can use to combat poverty—both nationwide and in our local communities, including the most effective public policies you can support and how to work hand-in-hand with representatives to affect change. So far, our attempted solutions have fallen short because they try to "fix" poor people rather than address the underlying problems. Fortunately, it's much easier to fix policy than people. Essential and timely, Broke in America offers a crucial road map for securing a brighter future.


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Water. Food. Housing. The most basic and crucial needs for survival, yet 40 percent of people in the United States don't have the resources to get them. With key policy changes, we could eradicate poverty in this country within our lifetime—but we need to get started now. Nearly 40 million people in the United States live below the poverty line—about $26,200 for a family of Water. Food. Housing. The most basic and crucial needs for survival, yet 40 percent of people in the United States don't have the resources to get them. With key policy changes, we could eradicate poverty in this country within our lifetime—but we need to get started now. Nearly 40 million people in the United States live below the poverty line—about $26,200 for a family of four. Low-income families and individuals are everywhere, from cities to rural communities. While poverty is commonly seen as a personal failure, or a deficiency of character or knowledge, it's actually the result of bad policy. Public policy has purposefully erected barriers that deny access to basic needs, creating a society where people can easily become trapped—not because we lack the resources to lift them out, but because we are actively choosing not to. Poverty is close to inevitable for low-wage workers and their children, and a large percentage of these people, despite qualifying for it, do not receive government aid. From Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox, Broke in America offers an eye-opening and galvanizing look at life in poverty in this country: how circumstances and public policy conspire to keep people poor, and the concrete steps we can take to end poverty for good. In clear, accessible prose, Goldblum and Shaddox detail the ways the current system is broken and how it's failing so many of us. They also highlight outdated and ineffective policies that are causing or contributing to this unnecessary problem. Every chapter features action items readers can use to combat poverty—both nationwide and in our local communities, including the most effective public policies you can support and how to work hand-in-hand with representatives to affect change. So far, our attempted solutions have fallen short because they try to "fix" poor people rather than address the underlying problems. Fortunately, it's much easier to fix policy than people. Essential and timely, Broke in America offers a crucial road map for securing a brighter future.

30 review for Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty

  1. 4 out of 5

    Grant

    Finally! A comprehensive breakdown and humanised analysis of poverty that doesn't bounce on MSM talking points and tells the whole story, blowing apart the myths of meritocracy. It's disturbing to see Australia creeping up on the US in inequality and this book should serve a wake up call/warning to all. Finally! A comprehensive breakdown and humanised analysis of poverty that doesn't bounce on MSM talking points and tells the whole story, blowing apart the myths of meritocracy. It's disturbing to see Australia creeping up on the US in inequality and this book should serve a wake up call/warning to all.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenn the Readaholic

    I know, I know. This is just another book about inequality and brokenness in America, right? Wrong. Yes, we do see recurring themes and points as in other books like American Bootstraps and $2 a Day, but we have more information from the professionals and activists who lived the struggle and are trying to help others, or people who keep trying to claw their way out of the gigantic pit that the obvious (and not so obvious) moves by corporations, politicians, and voters have put them in. We also h I know, I know. This is just another book about inequality and brokenness in America, right? Wrong. Yes, we do see recurring themes and points as in other books like American Bootstraps and $2 a Day, but we have more information from the professionals and activists who lived the struggle and are trying to help others, or people who keep trying to claw their way out of the gigantic pit that the obvious (and not so obvious) moves by corporations, politicians, and voters have put them in. We also have clear, actionable items at the end of each topic. And they’re not difficult items, so you don’t have to already be in a position to make massive changes. This book shows that the small steps by individuals can make all the difference, especially if enough individuals speak up or engage. I especially liked how this book went into the sub-prime car loan scam. I’ve long since known about the practices of these Ugly Duckling (or Drive Time now) type of dealerships that churn out cars with serious problems, collect some payments, repossess the car or leave the customer paying on a car they no longer have due to massive engine failure, resell if repo’d, repeat. The problem is that when someone can’t qualify for a loan from anywhere else, they’re stuck. Just like with renting subpar housing. Or working multiple low-wage jobs to try to get by. It’s a vicious cycle and this books perfectly lays out how it starts, how to break it, and just how difficult it is to break it, even temporarily. While I realize that some may not want to read this because “it’s depressing”, I thinks it’s a must-read because of that. It’s reality for so many Americans and we need to remember that this country is failing such a large portion of its people that something needs to be done. And again, it doesn’t always have to be something huge. Just small actions or deeds could make all the difference for the neighbor you didn’t know is struggling to feed their children or the community you drive past and ignore on the way to Whole Foods.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Wenger

    This is an easy-to-read but thorough and eye-opening book. It addresses both the breadth and the depth of poverty in the US. It shows how intractable generational poverty is—how many Americans are denied even the most basic necessities, like clean water, which makes it impossible to create a better life. A must-read for all Americans. Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    The authors contend that poverty is not typically a failure of character as many people believe. In my experience, I have found many people that are just looking for any loophole to milk the system. I have also met some people who are working really hard to get ahead. I think the real problem is finding a way to enable those who are willing to work and stop helping those who are lazy and believe the system “owes” them. This book is 260 pages long. The first 137 pages describe what poverty looks The authors contend that poverty is not typically a failure of character as many people believe. In my experience, I have found many people that are just looking for any loophole to milk the system. I have also met some people who are working really hard to get ahead. I think the real problem is finding a way to enable those who are willing to work and stop helping those who are lazy and believe the system “owes” them. This book is 260 pages long. The first 137 pages describe what poverty looks like in terms of “Basic Needs” and give very specific examples with a few things “we can do” at the end of each chapter. The next 95 pages are about “Forms of Oppression”. There are exactly 25 pages of “Solutions”. Although, I didn’t keep notes for the first few chapters, the purpose of the notes is just to tickle my memory as to what was said. Water (Water should be a public right; however, too many companies are privatizing it and then charging excessive amounts for something that should be free - or at least we should only pay a reasonable fee to the local water company) Food Housing Utilities: are a huge problem for low income people. Often they are living in rental units that are not energy efficient to start with. For the most part they are not eligible for aid until they are already behind in their bills. The liens put on them don’t ever go away and effect them getting a job, another rental etc. Public transportation: the people who need public transportation live in the areas that do not have as good a transportation system - because that is all they can afford. The best parts of the transportation system are in the middle of the city - where the poor cannot afford to live. This book seems to be about the working poor. And their plight is truly a problem. Unfortunately, any laws to help them also help the lazy “can’t be bothered to work” poor and the rich that we should not be helping. One of the problems I have with the statistics that are racial is the complaint that blacks get more citations than whites. The assumption is that the police are going after the blacks. Couldn’t it be that the police have discovered that when they check, blacks are more liable to be in violation! For purposes of this book, I can believe that is because more blacks are poorer than whites - not that it is a racial bias. The authors complain about people being late for work - due to transportation problems - being docked for every minute they are late. I am wondering how they suggest remediating this problem? You can’t let them be late every day, but how do you show Compassion without ending up in a situation of “you let so-and-so” be late - why not me? The boss should not have to be put in a position of evaluating every excuse for lateness. And frankly sometimes you MUST be there on time. Hygiene Health: upper and middle class Americans understand that their health is dependent on personal behavior - exercise, eat more whole grains, practice daily meditation. However, not all of society “has sufficient time and resources to eat healthfully, live in a safe house and engage in exercise and other stress reducing activities.” “The US spends more on health care per capita than any other nation, yet we are sicker and die younger than people in other industrialized nations”. “ Poverty makes the basic needs that support good health difficult, and sometimes impossible to obtain” “You get sick because you are poor and you get poorer because you are sick” - because your illness does not allow you to work at the only jobs available to you - eg. jobs where you have to stand for long periods of time Part II: Oppression - not sure why this title... (and not sure why the authors think these situations are oppression) Racism - stealing homes. Authors claim there are restrictions for most home loans that will not give loans in areas that are not a good risk, i.e. neighborhoods must be able to sustain stability - are occupied by the same racial and social classes. In addition they describe several scams that black people fall victim to, since they can’t get a conventional loan. Sexism - women’s work. Women heads of households don’t make near the money men do, they are the working poor. The government offers women training only for low paying jobs - like health care - aids, nurses etc. i.e. they offer training for jobs that will keep people in poverty. Denial of political power Electoral politics are generally a sport for the wealthy, meaning the eventual office holder can be oblivious to working-class concerns. This chapter - and the authors attitude - bothers me. The reason the poor steal, sell drugs etc is that they have no other choice. This does NOT make it ok! People who have been incarcerated, still have problems when they get out of jail. They can’t get jobs, live in certain places etc. The laws that cause this to happen were enacted to protect the majority. I think that there have to be ways that we can modify these laws so that once someone proves themself, they can be exempted from them. Maybe we need to spend more money on half way houses that would help people released from jail find housing and a job - and maybe some education (use the word loosely) on how to live on the outside. Mental Health Discrimination Is mental illness causing poverty or is poverty causing mental illness? Both. This chapter concerns itself with the latter High Poverty Schools Staying in school is easier said than done. Students come to school with experiences of material deprivation. Or not on time because of flat tires, need to care for younger siblings, chronic illness. The parents recognize that their kids need at least a high school education in order to get out of poverty, but can’t always make it happen. (In Lytle Texas, schools serve as the source of basic needs) Exclusionary discipline (expulsion, suspension) are not the answer to tardiness, truancy etc. - they just cause kids to lose even more classroom time. Part III Solutions Possibilities “People are poor because the money they have is insufficient to pay for the things they need” - duh! As is the usual case, a good bit of this book is spent explaining the problem. And/or giving lots of examples. Much less time is spent on solutions. I have had this book out from the library for a long time and cannot renew it. In this possibilities section, the author is suggesting that we find a way to make people’s income reasonable and more stable. Each of the suggestions includes people being given money outright. I do not currently have the time to seriously evaluate these suggestions. The author suggests that we actually do have the money to do this - by not spending it on defense or not needing some of the programs currently in place that would not be needed. She believes that while we would see what looks like a decrease in the number of people working, it would rathe be a delay in working - kids would finish high school, maybe go on to college. Mothers would stay home and take care of their babies. All would go back to work at what would be the appropriate time for them. (Something the middle class and up take for granted) Advocacy One of the authors, Joanne, was originally a social worker. Through her work she began to realize how difficult it is for the poor to get diapers. The result is a cascade of problems: no diapers, can’t leave the child at childcare; can’t leave the child, can’t get additional training for a better job (or be able to go to a job); no training, stuck in the same dead end, low paying job - stuck being poor. Joanne began a diaper bank in her own town, hooking up with the other non-profits working with the poor in her area. She eventually ended up setting up a National Diaper Bank Network. The authors suggest an 8 step process for each of us to begin to make a difference in this world. The steps are easy to understand yet not as easy to implement. The ideas at the end of each chapter are very concrete, yet mostly political. I feel like I have a better understanding of what it is like to be poor. We definitely need to help the working poor. I am not convinced that there isn’t a subset of the poor that are just out for a handout. Still a lot of questions as to handle all of this.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

    Thank you to the authors, BenBella Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a fantastic, albeit horrifying and maddening read. Even for those only minimally aware of the issues of economic inequality, it's obvious that way too many people are living paycheck to paycheck, or subsisting well below the poverty level, in the self-proclaimed "greatest country on earth". The framework used by the authors is very effective, pinpointing the issues first in terms of basic n Thank you to the authors, BenBella Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a fantastic, albeit horrifying and maddening read. Even for those only minimally aware of the issues of economic inequality, it's obvious that way too many people are living paycheck to paycheck, or subsisting well below the poverty level, in the self-proclaimed "greatest country on earth". The framework used by the authors is very effective, pinpointing the issues first in terms of basic needs, then in the forms of oppression. Interwoven with individual glimpses into the lives of people impacted by the situation is the background and history of how this came about. The genius element is that clear, actionable items are included at the end of each topic. These are not difficult things, and the book shows how small steps by individuals can make a huge difference - very encouraging to find ways for each of us to engage. This is a must-read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    5 stars Broke in America Joanne Samuel Goldblum; Colleen Shaddox This book is both enlightening and maddening. How a country like America has these problems is beyond me. I really feel this book needs to be mandatory reading in all schools, perhaps even all politicians should read it so they would truly know what it is like to live in poverty. More people need to realize the true effects of deprivation and the real-life complications which occur due to living in a constant state of desperate need a 5 stars Broke in America Joanne Samuel Goldblum; Colleen Shaddox This book is both enlightening and maddening. How a country like America has these problems is beyond me. I really feel this book needs to be mandatory reading in all schools, perhaps even all politicians should read it so they would truly know what it is like to live in poverty. More people need to realize the true effects of deprivation and the real-life complications which occur due to living in a constant state of desperate need and stress. Goldblum and Shaddox have done a remarkable job of showcasing the day-to-day lives of Americans who live on the edge of homelessness and even those that have drifted into it. Far too many people are one missed paycheck from catastrophe. How is this even possible in this country? This is going to be one of the most important books of 2021. I so highly recommend this book! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tiena (aka T)

    I worried that this book would be too "academic" and hard to follow or understand. It is none of these things. Broke in America is exceptional - well written, well organized, and easily understood even though the topic can be complex. The authors take the mystery out of poverty, and share specific examples of how policies formed around water, energy, and housing are cyclical. I also appreciated that at the end of each chapter they present attainable action steps. The amount of care and research I worried that this book would be too "academic" and hard to follow or understand. It is none of these things. Broke in America is exceptional - well written, well organized, and easily understood even though the topic can be complex. The authors take the mystery out of poverty, and share specific examples of how policies formed around water, energy, and housing are cyclical. I also appreciated that at the end of each chapter they present attainable action steps. The amount of care and research that went into Broke in America is apparent throughout the book. Without even needing to be "political", it is an important book at an important time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    This book is so different from other poverty finance books out there. I have read my fair share of them, and this book is far and away better. At the end of each chapter the authors describe actionable steps that an average person can take to help the poor, those in poverty, and those that are struggling. I loved that. It really made me start to think about ways in which I could do something in my community. I love the research and the time and the care that went into this book. Its well researched This book is so different from other poverty finance books out there. I have read my fair share of them, and this book is far and away better. At the end of each chapter the authors describe actionable steps that an average person can take to help the poor, those in poverty, and those that are struggling. I loved that. It really made me start to think about ways in which I could do something in my community. I love the research and the time and the care that went into this book. Its well researched and has a great flow. One of the best books on poverty and finance that I have read in a long time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I really liked this! The review copy had some issues with formatting, I think, but careful reading could follow the thread of argument--and it was very well done! I like how the authors investigated the many ways poverty affects us all, especially children, and then even included tips on things to do and how to get involved. Important book! Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for this review copy!

  10. 5 out of 5

    M.

    It was a good read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Tomsic

    This book is full of great resources and information. Everyone should read this, and find out how we can help.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Tadlock

    Let me start by saying SHOCKING! As someone who is "Broke in America", I was completely unaware of the many issues keeping many more than half Americans unable to provide readily for basic needs in order to live comfortable lives. This book was well researched and included many of the resources and studies used to find the downfall in the American system. I am extremely saddened that we as a country are not fighting to take care of each other and fighting to create better income and resources th Let me start by saying SHOCKING! As someone who is "Broke in America", I was completely unaware of the many issues keeping many more than half Americans unable to provide readily for basic needs in order to live comfortable lives. This book was well researched and included many of the resources and studies used to find the downfall in the American system. I am extremely saddened that we as a country are not fighting to take care of each other and fighting to create better income and resources that we all need to survive. This is definitely a MUST READ! * There were many times while reading the formatting was wonky but I was able to get through it. I will say, however, MANY proper nouns and the beginning of many sentences were not capitalized and that drove me crazy. Also, several times where names were listed last name the lower case first name. I hope they fix this prior to release!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Matlow

    This book is to poverty what White Fragility is to racism. In the same way I believe every white person needs to read White Fragility, every non-poor person needs to read Broke In America. It is so easy for us to lay back on our couches and say that if poor people just got a job and applied themselves, they wouldn’t be poor. The average person doesn’t realize all that we take for granted in not being poor. This book does an incredible job of explaining the challenges of poverty and how our syste This book is to poverty what White Fragility is to racism. In the same way I believe every white person needs to read White Fragility, every non-poor person needs to read Broke In America. It is so easy for us to lay back on our couches and say that if poor people just got a job and applied themselves, they wouldn’t be poor. The average person doesn’t realize all that we take for granted in not being poor. This book does an incredible job of explaining the challenges of poverty and how our system is designed to make life more difficult for the impoverished. Even more, each chapter gives suggestions of what you can do to be proactive. It is a must read. In fact, I just bought it for three people. #netgalley #brokeinamerica

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "Broke in America" by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox is what I would call a 101 course on poverty in America. The book provides a really great overview of how poverty exists in America from diaper and feminine hygiene insecurity to housing and food insecurity. The authors provide readers with some astoundingly sad facts about how low wages, a limited social safety net, poor policies, racism and other factors keep people in America poor. Each section of the book could really be its ow "Broke in America" by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox is what I would call a 101 course on poverty in America. The book provides a really great overview of how poverty exists in America from diaper and feminine hygiene insecurity to housing and food insecurity. The authors provide readers with some astoundingly sad facts about how low wages, a limited social safety net, poor policies, racism and other factors keep people in America poor. Each section of the book could really be its own book. This is an important read for the new year, especially as we see inequality grow as a result of Covid.

  15. 4 out of 5

    J9 Brown

    *Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC* A good broad overview of poverty in America. At times so broad that it felt a little unfocused. But all the info about the physical and mental health impacts of the stress of living in poverty, especially on children, was really important and something that should be more widely known and discussed. And the personal accounts and the lists of actions people can take at the end of each chapter were great.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. This emphasized how horrific poverty is in the USA. We have a lot of work to do.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diane Nilan

    If you really want to understand poverty, and in many cases homelessness, Broke in America is your go-to book. The authors cover the main topics impacting impoverished families in a fair, non-judgmental and comprehensive way. They don't preach--they just point out realities that will dispel myths of all sorts. For the dire topic, it's an amazingly readable book. One that should be on the top of the reading list for every lawmaker, policy staffer, civic leader, nonprofit personnel, social worker, If you really want to understand poverty, and in many cases homelessness, Broke in America is your go-to book. The authors cover the main topics impacting impoverished families in a fair, non-judgmental and comprehensive way. They don't preach--they just point out realities that will dispel myths of all sorts. For the dire topic, it's an amazingly readable book. One that should be on the top of the reading list for every lawmaker, policy staffer, civic leader, nonprofit personnel, social worker, medical professional, educators, college students and beyond.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diana N.

    This book does a great job at breaking down the essential needs(water, food, housing, health, utilities). So many of these needs are linked or those in poverty may have to choose ones over others. Then it talks about forms of oppression that impact the basic needs in most cases. I really liked hearing the real stories and impacts on the people struggling through poverty. The individual story details made all the impact on having the book feel like much more than statistics and have a more persona This book does a great job at breaking down the essential needs(water, food, housing, health, utilities). So many of these needs are linked or those in poverty may have to choose ones over others. Then it talks about forms of oppression that impact the basic needs in most cases. I really liked hearing the real stories and impacts on the people struggling through poverty. The individual story details made all the impact on having the book feel like much more than statistics and have a more personal connection to the topic and struggles.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    Well organized, with a strong thesis and solid subject delineations, this work presents the complicated world of poverty in a straightforward manner, complete with action items for the reader. Those who read on this topic regularly will appreciate the organization, and those new to the subject will leave with a greater understanding. Well done, all around.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Macke

    The book overpromises and underdelivers ... the recent book "American Poison" does a much better job of framing why so many people in the US are poor (though the book's main bone to pick is "racism"); and 2016's "2 dollars a day: living on almost nothing in America" is simply a better book on the same subject ... just sayin' The book overpromises and underdelivers ... the recent book "American Poison" does a much better job of framing why so many people in the US are poor (though the book's main bone to pick is "racism"); and 2016's "2 dollars a day: living on almost nothing in America" is simply a better book on the same subject ... just sayin'

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barred Owl Books

    A thorough book that examines the systemic issues and prejudices preventing us from addressing the endemic poverty. A book is nothing without what you can do to help in small to average ways - and this book enables you to truly know about poverty and what you can do to work toward ending it!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Millie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Claire Schulz

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim Hession

  25. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  26. 5 out of 5

    ronn

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine Hensley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cooper

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laurel King

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